MARCH 2024


Hello Ladies & Gentlemen:  “HAPPY EASTER TO ALL OF YOU”!  🙂 🙂

Firstly, thank you very kindly for your favourable remarks pertaining to my column designed to benefit your creative needs. Hopefully, you are implementing my suggestions and recognizing improvements in your photography!

I have also had people contact me in regards to setting up a blog post specifically inquiring……how is this done? I contracted an individual to incorporate my blog into my website several years ago and have lost touch with him. Should you wish to create a blog, I would suggest you contact a website designer who most definitely would be able to construct the necessary background in your website or other related material.

This month I wanted to share with you a conversation I had recently with a novice regarding set design/props.

I have had endless photo sessions over many years, indoors and outdoors, and the most important thing to mention to you would be this; limit the amount of props in your imagery so you are not taking anything away from your subject. This applies to imagery of products or people. There are many variables you can introduce into set design and one should always utilize items that will compliment your subject. This sounds like a straight forward suggestion, however you would be rather surprised at how many inappropriate items I have seen over time which should never have been incorporated in certain photographs.

Selection of a non competing background & limited props such as plain paper or draped fabric always permits opportunities for a photographer to enhance subjects via the characteristics of lighting. When I am utilizing fabric backgrounds for instance, I will frequently try to introduce lighting placed within the proximity of the background creating a more three dimensional appearance to it. A light placed at the side of your frame and slightly in front of your background at perhaps a 45 degree angle will produce excellent three dimension patterns behind your subject. The background at this point will not only contain highlight areas, but shadows as well which are very beneficial when created thoughtfully. These alterations of tonality on the background can be used to direct viewers of your imagery around your subject in comparison to creating an image which appears to be rather stagnant in appearance.

*In all aspects of visual design, creating limited, alternate visual areas for your viewers eyes to travel to are referred to as secondary motifs. Their job is to accent and enhance your subject subtly without taking too much away from them. For example: perhaps you are creating a model portfolio and you wish to compliment the attire of the models elegant dress. By introducing a minimal amount of props “themed” or selected to address the models clothing, will give you the ability to place this prop either beside or behind your model adding strength to your photograph. The old expression of “Less Is More” always wins out in comparison to introducing excessive items that end up being nothing more than visual competition.

Several photographers I have known over many years, will commonly flat light their subjects with a large main light situated in the proximity of the camera itself thereby placing a flat, shadow less image on the subject and background. The backdrop, as a prop at this point, would appear evenly lit and contain no three dimensional contrast. Should you desire this effect that is certainly acceptable particularly when a model has had professional make up and hair done. The make up artist would have invested a considerable amount of time ensuring the models features have been addressed from one side of the models face to the other so when faces are lit with this type of flat lighting, shadows are for the most part, non existent. This even lighting on a background and model can be well suited but again, think about the non contrasting background. If you are interested in having your viewer “look around” your imagery instead of having their eyes rest upon one area only, consider my suggestion of side lighting the background to create these subtleties. The backdrop as mentioned, is a prop in your image which many people forget to consider.

Props have to be well thought out ladies and gentlemen otherwise they compete for attention visually. I could speak rather endlessly at this point as to what you should introduce into each of your particular sessions but I think you have surmised the points I am addressing here. Numerous award winning photographs/images have been created with nothing more than plain paper backgrounds and accent lighting on the background itself directing viewers full attention to the subjects.

When I am in my studio photographing families or otherwise, I have several custom hand painted backdrops which feature variations in colour and tonality specifically designed to cause visual movement for the viewer. This is done typically be selecting backdrops which contain various areas of contrast meaning, highlights and shadowed areas. Often, no props are required when accessing backgrounds of this nature because in many instances, they already are a prop and create movement. You would not want to make them appear to “busy” by incorporating additional props causing distractions.

The next time you are attempting to orchestrate portrait imagery, address the models/subjects attire fully. Consider prop selection to compliment their clothing and the pose you choose to place them in. Forty five years ago when I began doing model portfolios, I was attending courses hosted by photographers in the fashion business and ironically, many of them used one prop for each model being either a step ladder, stool or chair with plain backdrop papers. This limitation of props causes a person to expand their horizon regarding proper posing and lighting to enhance the beauty of your subject. Always remember……less is more!

With My Good Wishes Extended Ladies & Gentlemen”

Jeff Ryan Photography/Ryan Studio Ottawa