SO, ARE YOU READY for another challenge that might come with the potential to take you out of your comfort zone? Welcome then to the second assignment in Pro Academy, where we’re asking you to go out and shoot any type of portrait you choose, a task that genuinely gives you a huge amount of scope to head off in virtually any direction you choose. For example, you could look to set up a formal picture in the studio utilising a full set of lighting kit, you could work inside with natural light, you might choose to head out on location with a subject or even look to work in a candid style, with your subject totally unaware of your presence.

Portraiture is one of the most challenging but rewarding genres there is, and this is your chance to really have some fun, to play around and to see what you can come up with. If you caught our introductory feature last month, you’ll know the ground rules by now. We’re running Pro Academy in tandem with the excellent Nikon School and, over the coming months, we’ll be setting a total of six testing challenges to see what you can do. You’re cordially invited to enter just one or to go the whole hog and to take part in all six.

We’re inviting you to send across your best shot from the assignment to our expert team at Professional Photo and, if you’ve met the required standard, we’ll send you back an e-certificate to prove the fact. Successfully complete all six assignments and you’ll receive a further e-certificate to confirm that you really are an excellent all-round operator! It’s not a competition and there are no prizes to be won, but you’ll have the great satisfaction of knowing that your skills have been recognised and it’s a chance for you to dip into some fresh genres.

By Tianna Williams, opens in a lightbox.

How to Take Part

You don’t need to be a professional photographer or a Nikon user to take part in Pro Academy, and don’t feel shy about sending in the best shot you’ve been able to achieve, even if it’s perhaps not up to the high standards of the work you can see here. It’s all about learning and rest assured we will be making allowances for newbies! Enter your photo below by clicking on the green submission box.

Challenge number Two

Portrait Photography

WE WANT TO SEE your best single shot related to portraiture, and you’ve got free rein to come up with any approach you choose. Our expert photographer sharing tips this month is Tianna Williams, who happens to specialise in maternity portraits and gorgeous photos of newborn arrivals before they start to grow up, but although there will certainly be pointers you’ll be able to glean from her meticulous approach and the way she works to put her subjects at ease, there’s no requirement to shoot the same kind of subject or to follow her individual style. The choice of approach is entirely up to you, but we’re looking for proof of your skills, so be sure to stretch yourself, resist the urge to raid your files, see what our experts have to say and then go and take a picture specially for the challenge.

Technical Tips with Neil Freeman

“IF YOU’RE SHOOTING portraits outside, it can be good to be working on a flat grey day”, explains Neil, “because then the sky will be acting like a huge diffuser and there will be no harsh shadows under the eyes to contend with. The downside of that approach, however, is that there will be no depth to the light and you can lose your subject against their background.

“An alternative approach would be to work on a bright day and to photograph your subject against the light, which can give you dramatic backlight or even a silhouette. You can create a more balanced look by opting for a touch of fill-in flash to lift the shadows on the face, while you can also work with a simple reflector, which will bounce light back where it’s needed and show you the effect in real time.”

Submit your photograph here.

Tianna WilliamsPortrait Specialist

Each month, we’ll feature a top professional from the genre we’re covering to get some idea about what they find so compelling about their chosen speciality.

Camera Gear

Tianna’s association with Nikon started early, ever since she picked up a D3200 and just loved the way it felt. Shortly afterwards, she upgraded to D750s, while earlier this year she was given the opportunity to test out some Nikon mirrorless kit, which led to an invitation to join the Z Creator Community. It’s meant that she’s now working with a Nikon Z6 II, plus a 50mm f/1.2 and the 70-200mm f/2.8. “I’ve always loved primes,” she says, “but friends raved about the versatility of the 70-200mm and so I was pleased to add it to my bag.

“The things you can do and achieve with the new Z-Series cameras are mind-blowing. The lenses are incredibly sharp, as well as very light, which is great when you’re in a lengthy newborn session or a full day at a wedding. For maternity portraits, I love to use the zoom, while my newborn portraits are shot with my 50mm, since I can shoot nice and wide, achieving dreamy bokeh. With mirrorless eye-tracking technology, I’m able to follow these wonderful little babies and I’ll know that the pictures will always be in sharp focus.”

AS A PORTRAIT photographer, it pays to have a good understanding of your subject, and Nikon Z Creator Tianna Williams most certainly has all the credentials she needs for her maternity and newborn portraiture business, having originally started out as an NHS nurse and midwife.

“I absolutely loved my previous job,” she says, “but on returning to work following the birth of my first daughter, I struggled adapting back to a very busy maternity unit. At that time, I also started taking pictures of my baby as she grew, because I really wanted to hold onto those early days – they fly by so quickly! That background gave me the experience I needed to move into the genre I have, plus the confidence to trust my skills.

“It means that I’m very comfortable working with pregnant mothers and handling newborn babies. My clients are happy to hear about my career history and I often end up discussing birth plans and options with them, which helps me to create a bond and gain their trust.”

While largely self-taught as a photographer, once she decided to go into the profession Tianna undertook a lot of online learning and she’s also invested in face-to-face training to speed up her progress. “The essential has always been light for me,” she says. “Once you’ve learned the rules of light, you can then break them to create your own art. Most of the time, I’m working with just one light, an Elinchrom D-Lite with an Elinchrom 175cm softbox, but I can’t wait to get my hands on one or more of the new ELC 500s. They’re really fast and have an incredibly short recycling speed, meaning I get more time actually taking photos!

“Within my maternity portraits, I’m looking to capture beauty and strength. My aim is to empower my subjects and to recognise how incredible their bodies are to have this ability to create and sustain life. That fact has always inspired me, even at the beginning of my midwifery journey. I absolutely adore clients with a strong cultural identity, who want to incorporate their heritage and history in their sessions.”

Because she’s dealing with subjects who may never have appeared in front of a camera before, Tianna spends time putting them at ease, and she’ll advise beforehand on what to expect and the things that should be brought along to the session. She might also provide accessories, such as hats and jewellery, to take even more of the pressure away and to make sure that everything runs smoothly from start to finish.

“I’ve also found a wonderful, royaltyfree playlist on Spotify,” says Tianna, “which is just really soft, relaxing music, but it creates such an incredible and high-end vibe in the studio. Some clients do want friends and relatives to attend, but I advise against it because it’s a little like stage fright with an audience. My studio is really beautiful and has such a cosy, yet luxurious feel, and I don’t want anything to detract from that.”

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