While senior portrait season is still a few months away, it’s time to prepare with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday deals all on the horizon. If you want to start and get into this style of photography, here are some options from photographer and YouTuber Michelle Nichols.
In her latest video, Nichols talks about her approach to senior photography, and much of it involves using prime lenses that you wouldn’t expect to give her photos a slightly different look. Typically, photographers use standard focal lengths like 85mm and 135mm lenses, or rely on zoom lenses with a wide aperture like a 70-200mm f/2.8. I personally am a heavy abuser of the now 30 year old Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 IS USM.
Instead, Nichols relies on wider lenses like the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM Lens and the “nifty five” RF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens. These are some affordable alternatives to the L versions, but they deliver excellent results. Nichols switched to RF mount versions of these lenses because the focusing speed was faster with native lenses on her Canon EOS R6, she notes. The slightly wider than usual focal lengths give your photos more context and can often capture more of the personality of your subjects.
The other key component for portraits? Lighting. While being able to control lighting with speedlights or other tools is ideal, costs can quickly add up. Nichols recommends starting with the basics, a simple reflector to make good use of natural sunlight and illuminate your subjects even in difficult backlit situations. Westcott makes one that serves as a 5-in-1 reflector/diffuser combo that has gold, silver, and white sides for reflective duties and a diffuser to soften glare, and a black side to absorb light . It’s something that should definitely be in every photographer’s tool box.
There are many different approaches to good senior portrait gear. How do you take pictures like this? Leave your recommendations in the comments below.