Monday, February 18, 2013

Photographing portraits in New York City: Part One

This week I had some free time in between my presentations at B&H Photo and Unique Photo in the New York area. And what do I do when I am not teaching photography? Shooting of course!

I have two good friends who live in the city and wanted some portraits taken.  Scott, who is the husband of my second cousin, and Megan who is the daughter of a good friend who lives in Florida. As always, I love taking portraits for friends and family, and loved the challenge of doing so in Manhattan.

At 11am, Scott met me at the Marriott Marquis hotel which is located right in the middle of Times Square. Not wanting to shoot images in this heavily congested area, I suggested that we head towards Grand Central Station to see what we could find there for interesting backgrounds.

As we made our way east, I saw Bryant Park and suggested that we take some photos there. We started by one of the fountains. Luckily, we had a mostly overcast day, so the harsh sunlight and shadows were not an issue at this point. The following image was one of the first that we took.

This first shot was OK, but I really was not thrilled with the rather generic background. So, we continued our walk towards Grand Central Station.

As we were just about to leave Bryant Park, I noticed stacks of chairs that were up against a wall. I am usually drawn to repeating pattens, and thought that this would be a fun shot with Scott in the foreground. So, I grabbed one of the chairs and asked Scott to strike some poses for me.

After shooting some wide shots, I asked Scott to move his chair closer to me (to create more separation from the background). I was using my Canon 5D Mark III with the 70-200 2.8 lens, and chose an aperture of f2.8 to give me the least depth of field possible. (Camera settings were 125mm, f2.8, ISO 250, 1/640 sec taken in Aperture Priority mode)

We then went back to the wide shots. I decided to switch the camera to spot meter mode to expose for the highlights and accentuate the contrast of the sunlight on Scott's face.

Just as we were getting ready to pack up and head off to the next location, the clouds covered the sun and I saw a chance to shoot the same portrait without the harsh sunlight.

Then we continued our walk, which lasted all of about 2 minutes, because just on the other side of Bryant Park is the NY Public Library. For those of you who are regular blog readers, you know that I posted a blog when visited this amazing location once before. I thought that it would be a cool place to take some shots of Scott in a really unique environment.

I found a location for Scott, where I could frame him in between the lamps, and had him grab a book from the shelves. This is one location where I really appreciate the silent shutter mode of the 5D Mark III, since it was incredibly quiet and I did not want to distract everyone with the sound of the camera shutter.

Using hand gestures, I instructed Scott to look up from the book, as I wanted some photos showing more of his face. (Camera settings were 150mm, f2.8, ISO 1000, 1/320 sec taken in Aperture Priority mode)

Looking at the LCD on the back of the camera, I really liked what I saw, but wanted to get some different perspectives. We moved over to the book cases, which line the perimeter of the room, and I had Scott face towards the center of the room. I shot these three images to incorporate both book cases. (Photographer tip: A really strong image usually has a foreground, middle ground and background. These images has all of these, along with strong colors and leading lines, which force the viewer's eyes to travel to Scott's face.)

It was Scott's idea to sit on the floor for these shots. I got down on my knees, so that I was shooting at his level and took these photos.

At the entrance to the NY Public Library, we found these fountains, and I thought it would be fun to shoot some photos here, since it could just as easily be in Italy, from the look of it.

And finally, we did make it to Grand Central Station...

My goal was to set up a shot with Scott perfectly still and have everyone else in the station moving. So, I set up the camera and flash on my Gitzo tripod, set the camera for a 2 second exposure and fired a bunch of shots to see what movement I could get in the background. This was a fun shot and a great way to end our couple of shooting together. Then we came back to my hotel to go through images to see what we had captured. So much fun!

Stay tuned to the blog to see the images of Megan.

Here is one of them...

10 comments: said...

Great shots Jeff!

Unknown said...

Hi Jeff, could i ask, you say that you used spot meter mode to expose for the highlights on scott but what AF point selection do you tend to use. thanks justin "UK" Great work!!

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Justin - I almost always use the center point for focus. I focus that point on the subject's eye and then, holding the shutter button down, reposition to frame the way I want to.

budget hotel in new york city manhattan said...

WOW!! The pictures are perfect ans spl the one clicked at Grand Central Station...its lovely

Unknown said...

Jeff when you post your photos do you use the original size or some other size?

Bob Hare said...


You noted that the 5D M3 has a great silent shutter mode.

Would this be comparable to the silent shutter mode on the 6D ?

Also, I've found that the standard shutter volume on the 6D is much more quiet than my previous T3i, which is great, as I take many shots in libraries for work.

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Isaac - I always resize the images to approx 600 pixels and watermark them for the blog. I want them large enough to look good, but small enough so that people can not steal them and print them.

Bob - I have never actually used the 6D, so I am not sure about the silent shutter. I will try to give that a try some time in the next couple of weeks.

Unknown said...

The pictures are really cool and amazing one.

Midtown nyc hotels

tinacase said...

I find taking portraits of male subjects to be a little more difficult, but these shots give me some inspiration and ideas on posing. Awesome!

Unknown said...

hello sir jeff! do you have any blogs for beginners in photography like me? coz i want my pictures look good.. tnx in advance and Godbless!!