How to do a remote portrait photo shoot30 May 2020
COVID19 has had a huge impact of pretty much everything. For portrait photography, the 6-feet-apart, no-travelling, use-mouth-mask lockdown had made it almost impossible to do an in-person photo shoot. But every limit is also a challenge, Is it possible to do an interesting remote shoot via the internet? The answer is yes. I will give you some tips on how to do this.
This article only talks about a ‘simple’ remote portrait photo shoot: 1 or 2 models, 1 photographer, with smartphone or tablet camera, no studio lighting, no DSLR, no assistant, no remote triggering, no tethering setup.
Preparing the remote shoot
- Timing: check where the windows are in the place you will shoot and when they get light during the day. This is of crucial importance for the timing of the shoot. Also look for nice shadows: long hallways, the presence of curtains, window blinds. The model could take photos at different moments of the day to get a better feel for this.
- Mood board: the model and photographer can collect and share a number of photos they find interesting/inspiring. Make it aspirational but realistic. Don’t add complicated yoga poses if your model is not a yoga fanatic, Don’t add Vanity Fair photos that were shot with a crew of 8 and $20K of lighting equipment. Don’t add photos that can only be taken with pro equipment (like a f/1.2 lens)
- Application: there are several options for the video connection.
- Facetime: iPhone/iPad/Macbook devices only. Allows for FaceTime Live photos, so the face of the photographer is not in the photos afterwards. Typical resolution: 852×1280 HEIC photos, +- 1 megapixel, with files smaller than 100KB(!). HEIC files can not be read by every software, so test it first.
- Messenger: only requires a Facebook account from both parties. The photographer can work from a laptop where they resize the screen in such a way that their own photo is not in the way. I did this one of my first times, I took screenshots (Shift-Apple-3 on MacOS) that were 2560×1440, of which 818×1364 was of the model. The resulting photos (after cropping) were 1MB PNG files.
- WhatsApp: requires both parties to have a WhatsApp account. Only works between mobile devices. The thumbnail of the photographer will always be in the screenshot.
- Zoom: only one of the participants needs a Zoom account, preferably a paid one, otherwise the shoot cannot last longer than 40 minutes. With a paid subscription the whole shoot can be saved as a video.
- (Microsoft) Teams: similar to Zoom.
Hardware: the (phone) camera
In most cases, the model will use a mobile phone (or tablet) to capture the images. This is quite different from a ‘real’ DSLR or system camera, with advantages and drawbacks. Let’s see how we can work with this camera phone.
Hold your phone in your hand
Obviously the easiest thing to do is for the model to hold the phone in their hand, directly or with a selfie stick.
But this limits the distance between model and camera (no full body shots), it limits the movement and makes some shots impossible. So let’s look at how the phone can be positioned so that the model does not need to hold it.
Let your phone stand
There are lots of options to hold your phone up so the camera is pointing horizontally. You can buy a mini tripod (3 static feet, less than 30cm/1 foot high), gorillapod (the feet can bend), a real tripod (up to 2m high), or you can DIY some solution out of a cup or some old credit cards.
DIY Cup holder </li> DIY Wires </li> DIY Plastic cards </li> Tripod </li> Gooseneck </li> </ul> The phone holder can stand on a table, a window sill, a cupboard, a rack or the floor. It can tilt downwards or upwards.