Beth + Mike | Fort Worth Stockyards Photography

In Client, Fort Worth, Portraits, Texas by James Brandon7 Comments

I’ve been getting requests to post more and more client work here on the blog. I’ll try to incorporate more of these shoots on the blog this year, and since a lot of my readers here are photographers, I’ll include some insight as to how some of the shots were taken.

Beth and Mike recently moved here from Pennsylvania to work at Hillside Community Church here in Keller. Mike is the assistant youth pastor and Beth works as a teacher with little kids. Mike and Beth have become dear friends since their move here and I was excited to have the opportunity to shoot some lifestyle portraits for them. We chose the Fort Worth Stockyards as a location for a few reasons: 1. ) Because it’s pretty much the complete opposite of PA and they wanted to have portraits that symbolized their move to Texas and 2. ) The Stockyards are one of my favorite places to take portraits. There are so many interesting locations and backdrops, the possibilites are endless.

For the following images, I’ll give brief descriptions of the camera settings and what thoughts went in to creating each shot. All of these images were shot in Manual mode to give me complete freedom and control over the light and depth of field in the image.

I’m pretty sure I did this entire session with my 50mm lens. Sometimes I change it up if I’m in the mood, and sometimes I pick one lens and stick with it, it just depends on the mood. The 50mm 1.4 is a perfect portrait lens; it mimics the human eye and the way it sees, with very little to no distortion. The 1.4 aperture allows for extremely shallow depth of field which is a blessing, but can also be a curse for new photographers. It’s very difficult shoots two or more people at f/1.4 as your depth of field is only about an inch or two if you’re in close. That means that if I focus on one persons eye, then the other persons eye will be soft and slightly out of focus. You have to be careful and pick an aperture that will keep both people sharp. For the above image, I chose f/2.2 which gave me 1/320th of a second shutter speed at ISO 200.

One of my favorite things during a lifestyle session is capturing candid moments. I will pose my clients a little, like telling Beth to lean against the wall and for Mike get in close for a kiss. But what I’m looking for is moment right before or after the kiss. The above image was shot at the exact same settings as the picture above.

It’s interesting to me to see how my style of portraits has evolved over time. When I first started out, I used a lot of Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets to create “stylish” and “modern” effects, or even retro type colors. Now, I have shifted my style to a more timeless feel. I don’t want my clients work to fall victim to the latest Photoshop trends that will be out of style or even laughed at in later years. I think natural colors and the occasional black and white are both beautiful options that will last forever. With these images, Beth won’t have to explain to her children why their images have were taken in 2010 but look like they were taken in 1970.

In this image, I used the fence in the background to lead the viewers eye to the subjects. This is a subconscious effect but it does work, even if the subject is obvious as it is. The shot was taken at f/5.6 for 1/125th at ISO 200.

As you can see, this image was taken at the same position as the previous. I simply pivoted around Beth and Mike until the setting sun poured in to the lens. When shooting into the sun like this, it’s best to get in close and meter off the subjects face for the right exposure. Then, back up and let the sunlight pour in. If you metered correctly, you will get a result like the one above. I changed my aperture to f/7.1 to get all the detail in the couple possible. Because I was so close, I was still able to to blur the background a bit. My shutter speed was 1/50th so I took several shots to make sure I had one that was sharp. ISO was still at 200 here.

Although it looks darker outside, this image was taken about 2 minutes after the previous one. The light was virtually the same. The resulting exposure is possible thanks to high speed sync and off camera flash. Using a flash, you can literally turn day to night with the right settings. This effect creates dramatic lighting and gives great detail and definition to the subjects facial features. I used one 580 EX II flash and held it up in the air with left hand at about 45 degrees to the couple. After dialing in my camera settings to get the background light where I wanted it, I then dialed in my flash in Manual mode until the exposure was right on the subjects skin. Unfortunately, flash information is not recorded in EXIF data, so I can’t tell you what power the flash was at.

Beth really wanted to do these shots with a picture frame. I didn’t know if it would work out or not, but I am all for trying new things. I must say that I really liked the way they turned out, great idea Beth! I shot these at f/2.0 to blur out the background as much as possible. To get these expressions, I just let Beth and Mike take control. I just made sure the camera was ready to capture whatever they chose to do :-).

Thanks to Mike and Beth for a great lifestyle photo shoot and for being an incredibly easy couple to photography. The barbecue afterwards was amazing too!

  • Jmscustomdesignz

    Thanks for the details James! It’s great to hear what you’re using, how you’re using it and the thoughts and perspectives you have!

  • pankaj sharma

    Great photos. Thanks for the additional information.

  • Anonymous

    Great photos, James! I especially like that you’ve included your settings in there. I’m sure many will appreciate it. It’s funny that you mention not using effects/actions anymore. I will have to think about what you’ve said and see if I should start steering away from them.

  • Amanda

    Fantastic post, thank you for sharing.
    I’m happy to find someone that isn’t a fan of all the actions that are huge right now :)

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  • James Brandon

    Thanks everyone, glad you enjoyed it! I’ll have to do more of these in the future. The filters, as far as I’m concerned, are a fad. They come in and go out. Seems like one month everyone is making their images look like they were shot on film cameras from the 70’s, then another everything is fashion and oversmoothed skin, and so on. I think the only thing that is going to matter 50 years from now is the people in the images, so why not make them look incredible and natural, just the way they remembered themselves?

  • Esther Halcrow

    Hi, great to find your site and thanks for including tips on how you took the photos. I’m having the problem you talk about in the first paragraph – getting both people s eyes sharp.
    Can I just ask, if photographing 2 people, and want to get both sets of eyes sharp where should you focus? I’d love to take a shot like your first one but just cant seem to get it right!
    Any advice much appreciated!