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Thursday, February 14, 2008

An article in The Age about my workshops

The Grand Illusion
by Terry Lane
February 14, 2008
Imaging motored out to Eltham last week for a one-day workshop designed to help photographers improve their people shots. The day was organised by Camera House and was run by professional photographer Shelton Muller.
Shelton loves doing wedding photos, which makes him something of a rarity among professionals, most of whom seem to do it grudgingly to make a living. But Shelton is a showman who enjoys nothing better than directing a cast in a big production.
There were 13 of us there in the chapel at Montsalvat. For $249 we had the run of the grounds, lunch, the co-operation of three models and the experience of the professional.We were a motley crew with varying degrees of expertise. One wanted to take better pictures of his bonsai. Another had been sent by his wife to learn how to take better photos of her with the camera she gave him. There were a couple of camera club enthusiasts and one chap who just wanted to recapture the pleasure he got taking photos for the school year book a long time ago.
There was a bloke who took pictures of yachts and a couple of women who wanted to take better photos of their children.
We got started with the warning: "There's no more difficult subject in the world than people." Then we learned about light - avoid the on-camera flash, use available light wherever possible and become an observer of light and how it falls. Look for the most attractive, diffused light - think Rembrandt and window light streaming in from above and to the side. When you find the light, place your subject in it.
Then attend to composition. It isn't a good idea to place the subject's face in the centre of the frame with lots of "negative space" around the head. Put the eyes of the subject a third of the distance from the top to bottom of the frame.
A medium telephoto lens, preferably a prime, is best for portraits. Shelton's in love with his 85mm Micro Nikkor. It gives a flattering perspective and keeps the background attractively out of focus.
Now comes the hard part. We all want to take spontaneous, unposed, relaxed, natural pictures. As our teacher said: "Often the spontaneity is contrived." You have to work at it. The photographer is the director, drawing a performance - an illusion of spontaneity - from the subject. Which is where we shy introverts are at a disadvantage.
Shelton has a personality somewhere between Jim Carrey and Tigger. When he pulls a face and bounces, you smile. His exuberance comes from unfeigned pleasure in his work and in making people have a good time while he is buzzing around putting them into their contrived, spontaneous poses. He is free of the embarrassment that most of us feel when pushing people around in front of a crowd.
Imaging, being a fairly dour party, is confident that we know all about the rules of lighting, composition and lens selection. But when it comes to energising the subject, we can only envy Shelton. We don't think that wedding photography is for us.
We will stick to still-life capsicums and zucchinis.
This story was found here

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The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

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