I’ve always enjoyed taking portraits, but I’ve always hated getting them taken. Maybe it’s the years of my parents artificially posing me in some depressing Sears Portrait Studio. Or worse, the assembly line school photos we were forced to take by some robotic photographer reusing the same few cornball jokes each time to elicit a smile. It’s also probably due to other factors like my continuously growing belly and my perpetually receding hairline.
Taking portraits, though, is different. I love snapping candid shots, getting close, playing with colors, rules, and camera settings. That love never really switched to being on the other side. So when my wife told me that we were going to be waking up at the crack of dawn to drive up to Mt. Rainier for a family portrait, I’ll admit to being irritated. When I woke up at 3 a.m. for the several-hour-drive to Mt. Rainier, my irritation made my wife irritated.
It was the first time I met my wife’s photographer friend Rylea Foehl (Her first name is pronounced Riley. I only say this because my wife is constantly correcting me when I mispronounce her name). It was also the first time I enjoyed a family portrait. Her knack for picking amazing locations is only second to her ability to make you feel at ease and comfortable allowing her to take stellar shots!
If you’re in the PNW, outdoor-oriented, and in need of some portraits, we highly recommend Rylea Foehl Photography.
I asked Rhylea for a few tips to help aspiring photographers and she was gracious enough to spend some time answering my questions. Thanks, Rylea!
Can you give me a bit of a background on yourself, your business, and your favorite photographer?
I’ve always been documenting my life’s moments since I was in early grade school. While being a snowboard instructor in Mammoth, I was asked to photograph a friend’s wedding. I was no professional, yet, I just always had my camera on hand, but they liked the photos I snapped. I said yes and after that, my photography business just kind of fell into place. As for my favorite photographer, I’m not sure I have just one, but there are so many. Basically, anyone who can capture true emotions in a single photograph is someone who I just adore.
What rules (rule of thirds, the golden ratio, etc.) do you tend to favor and why?
For me, I should probably pay more attention to the rules of thirds, but honestly, I don’t. My biggest thing is to try and take a step back and just watch how my clients act and react to one another and capture them as I see them.
What are some tips for getting a perfect portrait? I’ve always liked snapping unexpected photo’s between poses to get a more natural relaxed look. What is your method for getting candid shots?
The perfect portrait trick is pretty much what you just described. I try and chat with my clients to get them to do fun little tasks that help bring out their real personalities. Example: if it’s a couple, I usually have them hold one another while one partner whispers a dirty secret into the others ear. That usually gets them both laughing pretty good. As for families, I let the kids have a head start in tickling the parents then let the parents take over. That will get everyone laughing and smiling and connected physically in some way.
What tools (lenses, cameras, flashes, lighting kits) do you recommend?
If you have a camera that lets you change out lenses, I highly suggest starting with the “nifty fifty.” Go get yourself a 50mm lens – you can find an older model for less than a $100 – and it will help bring your photos to the next level. It will allow you to get nice sharp images with great bokeh for a very fair price.
I always try to get people off of shooting auto and shooting aperture priority when they are beginning. What tips do you have for beginners that would drastically improve their photos?
Get off auto and get on manual. Play with your settings. Don’t be afraid to switch it up and practice every day. Get your camera out every day. It’s truly the only way to “get” your camera.
What time of day do you like shooting? What sort post-editing do you do? Is there a free or low-cost editing tool you’d recommend?
I use Lightroom and Photoshop. If you have the budget for it, I suggest at least Lightroom. You can find a ton of free presets online to make editing quicker, but the biggest thing, just like learning your camera, is to practice with Lightroom. See what each slider does and, eventually, you will find a style you like for yourself.
What time of day do you like shooting?
I love shooting sunrises or sunsets. To me, the light is so magical it’s worth it.
What do you look for in background or location when deciding on where to shoot?
I try to keep my backgrounds free from major distractions. Open fields without power lines or beautiful natural landscapes without man-made materials distracting from my subjects and location.