Nourify Photography

Portraits in LA Arts District

The Arts District on the eastern side of Downtown Los Angeles is possibly one of the most filmed locations in the world. In recent years, it has become much more vibrant with some nice cafes and restaurants. The neighborhood is also famous for some truly artistic graffiti, which has made it one of the favorite spots for photography in Los Angeles.

This past weekend, we participated in a Location Lighting Workshop in the Arts District. It was a fun event where we got a chance to shoot portraits of a few models against graffiti backdrops. Some of our sample shots are shown below.

In general, what makes a portrait picture stand out is its content (e.g., the subject and his/her expression), the graphics (e.g., elements of composition, colors), and the technique (e.g., good focus, proper lighting and exposure). On the content, a key element, which may easily be overlooked, is how to establish proper communication with the models such that while they are being instructed to take the various poses, they can still feel comfortable and look natural while conveying the intended visual message or feeling (e.g., happiness, sadness, seriousness, etc.). On the graphics, the graffiti in the Arts District does provide for some colorful backdrops. And while trying to follow the general rules of composition, we did occasionally use angles to achieve a bit more dramatic compositions. As for lighting, we had a single strobe (in this case, a 500 Watts-second Photogenic monolight) in a large ~5 ft softbox and installed on a monopod and held by an assistant.

Another technique we used was to attach a blue (or orange) gel to the strobe, and then set a custom White Balance so that the background is rendered warmer (or cooler) while the model’s face maintains its proper neutral white balance. Remember that white balance adjustment is the process of adjusting color temperature and removing any unrealistic color cast in order to ensure that any object that looks white in the real world remains white in the picture too. A good brief tutorial of White Balance is provided here. Now, say, when an orange gel is put on the strobe, and if the custom white balance is not set properly, everything in the frame including the subject will have a strong orange color cast. So we should take a shot of a neutral target reference (e.g., a white or grey card) placed where the subject is and then set the the camera to use this shot as the reference for custom white balance. (Nikon and Canon cameras are a bit different on how the custom white balance should be set. Please refer to your User Manual). When we then take a picture, the camera will adjust the white balance and shift the color temperature for our shot in order to render the subject with proper neutral white balance, and in doing so, will also shift the color temperature for the background (which does not receive as much light from the gel’ed strobe) towards the cooler (bluish) colors.

Here are some of our shots. Hope you enjoy them. As always, please feel free to leave comments and critique. Thank you for stopping by…




2 Responses to Portraits in LA Arts District

  1. Great shots Kambiz!!!! Who was the instructor of the workshop? Are there any more workshops that he leads?

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