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Portrait Fundamentals at Leica Store LA
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Author:  James Lehrer [ Sat Mar 16, 2019 12:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Portrait Fundamentals at Leica Store LA

Today I will participate in a workshop on portrait fundamentals, presented by Leica Akademie at the Leica Store LA. It's an all-day program led by Philip Cuenco and Ray Olsen. Class size is limited to 12, and it sold out pretty quickly. I'll post a report on it, later.

Author:  James Lehrer [ Mon Mar 18, 2019 11:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Portrait Fundamentals at Leica Store LA

Although the Leica Akademie Portrait Fundamentals workshop was booked with the maximum of 12 participants, only 9 showed up. The absentees missed an excellent learning opportunity. The workshop enjoyed the support of 3 experienced professional models (2 women and 1 man), and 3 instructors: Philip Cuenco, Ray Olsen and Tom Smith (head of Leica Akademie North America). Loaner cameras, lenses, and EVFs were available.
Following introductions, the group reviewed photographs brought in by participants to show their current level of accomplishment in the portrait genre. Most images were brought in on jump drives and shown on a large flat-screen monitor in the third-floor classroom. One participant brought her images in as beautiful large-format color prints. Expertise ranged from talented beginners to professional. Most participants were experienced amateurs.
After looking over participants' work, the instructors - led by Phil Cuenco - took us through the basics of studio lighting. Given that we only had one day, the lighting gear was limited to two stand- and boom-mounted Rotolight Neo II LED lights and a couple of hand-held reflectors. If you are not familiar with the Rotolight fixtures, they are UK-designed, portable AC- and battery-powered LED heads. The small NEO can be hand-held or mounted on a camera hot-shoe or conventional stand/boom. It doesn't throw enough light to use in daylight or at any great distance from the subject, but in a small studio setting, or at night, it is terrific. Color temperature and output are adjustable with knobs on the back of the housing. Output in our small studio setup was sufficient to demonstrate the use of soft-white and metallic-gold reflectors as fill light. Phil described Rembrandt, butterfly, short- and broad-, split, edge and clamshell portrait lighting, while Tom and Ray demonstrated with the LED units and reflectors.
The group broke for lunch, hosted by Leica at nearby Lemonade. On our return, we were divided into three groups of three, and we rotated among the three models with the instructors making sure questions were answered, demonstrating tricks of the trade, and assuring that everyone had ample time to work one-on-one with each model. The models greatly enhanced the learning experience, as they could take direction from more experienced photographers, or strike great poses and expressions on their own to help those of us with less experience in this genre. As an oil painter, I've worked mostly with experienced art models; but the opportunity to work with runway, catalog, and editorial models and actors is quite different, great fun, and results in some great photographs to add to the portfolio. Another benefit of these models in particular was the opportunity to sit with them in a relaxed setting and get their advice on how to work with a model. All three were articulate, and spoke frankly about what - in their experience - works well and not so well. Kudos to Phil for arranging that opportunity.
In addition to shooting in the small studio (set up in the third-floor classroom), we also shot on the second-floor open-air porch and downstairs in the adjacent sidewalk and street areas.
Tom announced that Leica Akademie is hoping to repeat the workshop in Los Angeles later this year (possibly in May), and may expand it to a two-day program with an opportunity for critiques of participants' work, and with an introduction to basic post-production in the portrait genre.
Under the enthusiastic guidance of Phil Cuenco in Los Angeles these workshops have been well-paced, enjoyable and effective learning experiences.

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