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I started the project to try and learn how people were able to make great shots that looked like it was just dumb luck. Just stand there and snap one off, chimp and say, "Wow. How did that happen?".
I knew it wasn't dumb luck. Or a result of any particularly expensive camera/lens combination. Or as simple as, 'Set your aperture at wide open and blast away".
So for this project I tried to work on everything that I could think of that would help the shot. The shot of Laura is one where I manage (I think) to get the majority of it together. Here's what I did:
Find some nice soft light coming in at an angle. Hopefully some light for hair.
Check that the bg is just enough darker that what I'm going to light so that my subject will be the lightest thing in the frame.
Put my cheap, old manual 105mm lens on and set it at f2.8, nice and shallow, but not so shallow that one eye will be out of focus.
Fire off some test shots at heads walking past and correct exposure until I've got the shutter speed right.
Double check that my ISO is low, not still at 1600 from the dark shot before.
Wait, and try not to look like I'm lurking. Look for someone really, really interesting. Maybe good-looking, maybe with a bit of character, maybe just with a really confident attitude. Or red hair...
Approach and try to build up a bit of trust as quick as I can. Try not to come across as selling anything. Smile. Ask for a hand.
Explain the shot that I'm after. Shuffle them around so the light is right and explain how they can feel the light on their face. Demonstrate as if I'm the subject. Ask them to follow my hand with their face until I think it's perfect.
If I can, get someone to hold the reflector for me. Demonstrate what It does. Show how to feather it and exactly where to hold it so the catchlights are high. If not, do it myself.
Manually focus until the TINY little focus confirm light comes on, for an eye. Try and stop myself moving. Brace my arms and slow my breathing if I need to. Recompose.
Wait for a break in the ped/vehicle traffic. Wait for some wind. Say something so my stranger relaxes a lttle bit and doesn't look like they're bracing for impact.
Think about the shot and how it could look better. Recompose, reposition, refocus. Reshoot.
Gauge how the stranger is going and whether they are up for an alternate setup. If so, do the lot again.
That was just how I go about shooting. At least as much effort went into post. Just lots of little things that added a beesdick 1% to the shot, but made it look more like I saw it on the day, and in my head.
Hopefully this shot looks like I just stopped Laura in the street, asked her friend Leah to point a reflector at her, lifted my camera and pressed the go button.