Tabita Cargnel: A perfect beauty portrait in 5 steps!
Professional photographer (and architecture student) Tabita Cargnel specialises in portrait photography. Natural and expressive portraits are her strong point. For LUMIX stories, she was willing to compile a quick workshop with helpful tips and tricks for those of you who are also interested in portrait photography.
№1 The Bokeh effect
A very nice effect for almost every portrait is the Bokeh effect. With Bokeh I mean the soft and blurry background which gives the image an atmospheric feel. To create the Bokeh effect you need a fast lens with a wide aperture. My favorite lens for this is the Leica 25mm f/1.4. The small size, the sharpness and the speed or shutter speed are only some of the many advantages of a fixed focal lens. For a nice blurry effect, you should use a low aperture (f-number) to capture as much light as possible. Another tip is to get close to your subject so that it almost fills the entire screen. That way you can completely focus on the model and capture an expressive portrait. The Bokeh effect provides a soft and quiet background so that the sharp and crisp subject in the foreground is perfectly staged.
Using the available afternoon light on a cloudy day makes Zoe look very natural. The location somewhere by a castle adds the picturesque atmosphere.
LUMIX GX8 with Leica 25mm f/1.4 shot at ISO 400 1/640 sec f/1
№2 How to focus
Having explained the importance of the Bokeh effect I would like to show you the best way to capture your subject. An important aspect is finding the right settings for focusing on the perfect areas. That can be tricky. I prefer focusing on the eyes. Generally, it is best to focus on the eye that is closest to the camera. For a beauty shot you can use the blurry areas in a picture to make spots or fuzzy hair, which are further away, disappear. Zoom in during the shoot to make sure that the focus is where you want it to be and that what you want to be in the background or even hide is blurred. When you shoot frontally and the face is clearly recognisable you can also use the face detection mode, whereby the camera automatically detects the face and focuses on the eye closest to the camera. Otherwise I would use the AFS-mode (Autofocus Single Shot). In this mode, you can manually define the size and location of your focus point on the touchscreen of your LUMIX camera. Both versions are simple to use and deliver great images.
To capture this moment of beauty it takes a very good makeup artist, a pretty model, and an easy studio light setup. Retouching is key when it comes to close-up photography
LUMIX GH5 with Leica 42,5mm f/1.2 shot at ISO 400 1/2000 sec f/1.2
№3 Sunshine on a cloudy day
I think we are all familiar with this situation: you planned a perfect photo shoot and were anticipating some fantastic results, then the weather threatens to ruin everything. But no worries. I have some helpful advice for you! For me, a slightly clouded sky is perfect weather for a good shoot. That way the light is very soft and delivers great images. Moreover, just because you can’t see the sun doesn’t mean that you cannot capture it in your photos. Just use the sunshine filter, which is one of the many filters on your LUMIX camera. To get the most out of the filter, you should consider the following things: Where is your source of light? The sunlight should be in the background shining into your camera. How big should the flare be, where should it be located, and what colour is best? You can set all those parameters in the menu of your LUMIX camera. The sunshine filter is a really helpful setting and provides an atmospheric look. Just play with it a little bit and find the perfect settings for your sunny picture on a cloudy day. You can also use these tips in a studio light setup. However, if you are not experienced with flashlight, I recommend starting with available light or natural daylight. Just position your background wherever you find your perfect light situation and feel free. An advantage of working with artificial studio light is that you are in total control of the light conditions, so once you have finalised your camera settings, you can concentrate on working with the model and makeup artist.
№4 Doing it by hand
Next on the agenda is the manual mode. Don’t be afraid of the many settings and options. Sometimes it is even simpler to set the exposure manually rather than automatically. Moreover, the manual mode allows maximal control over ISO, aperture and exposure. With your individual settings, the photos turn out just the way you want. A major advantage of the LUMIX GX8 is that the camera allows you to preview your image while you’re adjusting the settings, so you can see how the different settings affect your image. Here are some useful tips: The order in which you choose the settings is very important. First set your aperture, then your exposure and then your ISO. My favourite aperture is f/1.4. With a low aperture, you can capture as much light as possible and create a soft blurry background (Bokeh effect). Set a short exposure. Models are moving objects and it is important to capture as many expressions and movements as possible. So, use a short exposure for images that are nice and sharp. Use a low ISO value in a bright environment. The brighter the light, the lower the ISO. While experimenting with the manual mode, don’t be put off by the many numbers on your screen. You will find the perfect setting through ‘learning by doing’.
Close-up shot of Leidi. If makeup is the subject of the image, you and the makeup artist must discuss your ideas before starting a beauty shoot. Having a talented makeup artist in your team is extremely important.
LUMIX GH5 with Leica 42,5mm f/1.2 shot at ISO 400 1/160 sec f/4.0
№5 Internal editing
Last but not least, I would like to tell you something about image editing. For me, internal editing has many advantages. It saves a lot of time, and you can change all the settings during the shoot and choose what is best for each situation. One of the most important things about camera internal editing is ensuring that you save all the photos in both RAW and JPEG formats, because only the JPEG images will change during the editing process. The first step is selecting the right camera setting. With the visual style setting, you can decide how the camera alters and saves the JPEGs. For the visual style, you manually have to define the contrast, sharpness and saturation for your images. Another setting photographers like to work with is the gradation curve. With the gradation curve, you can modulate the contrast settings even more accurately. You will find the setting in your camera menu under ‘Highlight Shadow’. I prefer to use an S-shaped gradation curve. The white balance is also a really important setting that defines whether your images look cold, neutral or warm. I use a warm white balance setting (above 5000K) for most of my shoots. It gives the image a warm effect and makes skin blemishes disappear. In some situations, you can even get great results by using the automatic white balance.
I hope these tips and tricks will be helpful. Have fun!
Tabita Cargnel was born in Cologne and studies architecture in Darmstadt. She took up photo-graphy when she started her degree four years ago. Her trademark portrait style is very natural and expressive. Tabita’s beauty and fashion photography is clear and dynamic.