portrait Archives - JOBY Blog

iPhone Portrait Studio on the Cheap!

By | Gorillamobile, Gorillapod, How To, Photography | 6 Comments

Kurt Manley is professional fine art photographer  based in San Francisco. He primarily shoots medium format color film in night environments, but you’ll also find him snapping away with his iPhone. 

Just like us here at JOBY, Kurt is all about creating amazing art with with little gear and limited resources. In this tutorial, Kurt shares how to shoot studio quality portraits without the studio set up. All you need is an iPhone, a clamp light, a GorillaPod and a few creative backdrop and diffuser materials and you’re in business! Thanks Kurt for sharing your portraits-on-the-cheap secrets with us! 

For Joanna I wanted a low-key look and soft light. First, I draped a black table cloth over a door to use as a neutral backdrop. I then hung a thin, white bedsheet in front of the clamp light to act as a diffuser to soften the light. Placing the clamp light approximately 45 degrees camera left and about 12 inches higher than her eyes gave me the lighting I was looking for. I attached the clamp light to the GorillaPod and used the GorillaPod as a handle to maneuver the light while I snapped a few frames using Camera+—one of my favorite unintended uses for the tripod. To finish, I processed the image using the Black & White filter in Camera+. The whole portrait session took just 10 minutes.
For Liz’s portrait, I used the same bedsheet diffuser technique against a neutral white background as I used for Joanna’s portrait. The only difference was this time the clamp light was positioned camera right and approximately 16 inches above her eyes. I also angled her body away from the light, providing a more dramatic effect to the lighting on her face. I shot with Camera+ and edited the image with the Camera+ Silver Gelatin filter.
For Carlos’ portrait, I tried to emulate a ringflash look. Using tinfoil, I first flagged center of the clamp light to produce a round light source. Then I used a GorillaPod to secure my iPhone in the center of the light so that the area completely surrounding the camera would be illuminated. I used a ladder to secure the clamp light and attached the GorillaPod to a C-stand, but a stool or back of a chair would work just as well. Because of the brightness of the light, I could not see the screen of the iPhone so I fired off a couple dozen shots and hoped for the best!  It took a few tries to get the composition right but it was fun to create something that I had never seen done with an iPhone before. I used Camera+ to shoot and processed with the Camera+ Low-Fi filter. The final effect is high contrast and high saturation—perfect for the fashion look this lighting technique suggests.
For Michael, I used the same ringflash technique as I did with Carlos’ portrait. Again, I shot against a neutral white background and then processed with Camera+ Ansel filter. The lighting and filter combination gives a harsh, high contrast look that I think works great with this particular shot where I caught him with his eyes closed. He looks like he’s transcending to a higher place.
Thanks Kurt for sharing your tips with us! If you’re interested in viewing more of Kurt’s work, visit him online.  Photos of Kurt in action by Carlos Arrieta. 
Update: For this tutorial, Kurt used a 2700k 23w compact flourescent bulb. He says that something in the 3000-3500k range would be good to try as well.

Tips from a Pro: On Location Portraiture

By | Photography | 2 Comments

The holidays are nigh and for many of us this means plenty of time spent celebrating with friends and family. For the photography-minded among us, it also means that we’ll want to capture friends and family in the best light so we can cherish our photos long after the holidays have passed. Lucky for us, Lowepro brought on professional photographer Rick Sammon to tell us how to get the best out of our portrait subjects during this holiday season, and far beyond.

Rick Sammon is a world-renowned travel photographer. Rick is the author of 36 books on photography, has several photography apps and leads dozens of photography workshops every year all over the world.  


Portraiture Philosophy

The camera looks both ways. Picturing the subject means we are also picturing ourselves. You—your mood, your body language—are reflected in the subject. It is important to be just as aware of yourself as you are of your subject when you are shooting a portrait.

Also, be sure to take photos of the people you love. You won’t ever regret having those images.

How to Get a Great Portrait


  • Respect your subject, especially if you’ve just met them.
  • Be friendly. Smile big. Share a bit about yourself and get to know them before you get behind the lens, even if it is just for 10 minutes.
  • Film the frame. The closer you are to the subject, the more intimate the photo becomes
  • Capture the “catch light” in their eyes. A little highlight/sparkle in the eye really brings the subject to life.
  • Try an off-center composition
  •  Shoot both vertical and horizontal
  •  Shoot Camera RAW to give yourself the most options in post production
  • ALWAYS KEEP SHOOTING! You never know what your subject will do next.


Portrait Gear

Favorite Lens: 24 – 105 mm zoom lens

#1 Accessory (after his Lowepro bag, of course): a flash


Lighting Tips for On-Location Portraits


Light illuminates, shadows define. The shadows are the soul of the photo.

  1. Pay attention to the direction of the light and move your subject to maximize the available light.
  2. Use a daylight fill flash. Try to balance the flash with ambient light for best results.
  3. Keep lighting set-ups as simple as possible. If you’re inside, use just one softbox. The larger the light, the softer the light. The closer the light, the softer the light.
  4. Reflectors are also great. They can bring out true colors and create contrast. Avoid placing the reflector below the subject because that creates a flashlight-below-the-chin effect.

For more lighting tips, check out Rick’s iPhone and iPad App “Rick Sammon’s Light It!”.

A Bit About HDR and Portraiture


HDR (high dynamic range) photography is when the photographer takes a series of images of the same scene to capture the entire range of highlights and shadows. These images are then merged into one final image in post-production. The spectrum of highlights and shadows in HDR goes beyond what a camera can capture or the naked eye can see.

Avoid applying HDR to people because the effect can be rather harsh. Instead, apply the effect around them for better results.

For more HDR tips, check out Rick’s iPhone and iPad App “Rick Sammon’s iHDR”.


If you’re interested in listening to this webinar or LowePro’s past webinars, visit Ask the Pro.

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