The world is changing and the world of photography is changing with it. Now the tool to make pictures can be FaceTime app or web-camera. I know, it sounds inconceivable, but this is the reality of how things are right now. I want to share with you how it’s done and highlight the main points of the idea.
I’m going to talk about FaceTime, but this can be applied to programs like Skype or WhatsApp, or any other messenger that has video call capability. As soon as you try, you will understand that there are no limitations and self-isolation and nothing can stand in the way of a creative mind.
The process seems easy enough: you call your client via FaceTime and choose a perfect place to do a photo shoot, then the client sets up the phone and you begin the photo shoot. As a photographer, you correct the way the model is positioned against the camera on the phone. You can say to your model where to look or where to stay, or how to turn. Just like in real photo shoot! You’ll be constantly adjusting photo position, so you’ll just have to get accustomed to this. You’ll communicate through a speaker or a headset.
What’s great about this kind of photo shoot that it makes your model feel even more involved in the process than before. On a normal photo shoot, you have to make contact with a client, explain how things are going to be. But this FaceTime photo shoot will be fun and exciting for both of you and the usual pre-session tension will go away. You can even joke about your model becoming a professional photographer’s assistant. You should lighten up the mood in every way you can, it is really important now.
There are three ways to shoot. I should mention that for Android systems the only option will be taking screenshots, as for Apple devices, you can also use LivePhoto feature.
Screenshot from smartphone
You’ll have to call your model and then start taking screenshots, sounds simple right? Well, you’ll need to tackle some problems. You’ll have to be sure that the internet connection is strong because if it’s weak, then the image will get pixelated and as a result, you’ll get the low-quality screenshot. Besides, your avatar in the corner of the screen won’t go away. You can either photoshop it or crop the image in post-production.
Screenshot from Mac or PC
This way has the same principle as with smartphones, but with few additions. You call your model via FaceTime and you take screenshots by pressing Shift-Command-3. The quality of the screenshot is also dependent on the model’s internet connection, but you’ll get a bigger resolution due to screen size. Also, it’s much easier to see details on a bigger screen. On PC a combination is windows key + print screen key, but I suggest you install a specific app like Joxi to capture good quality PNGs. Although it will require to set the program for fast and easy use (set-up quick keys and folder to store screenshots).
You and your model enable this feature in settings in a phone to work. During the call, in the lower right corner you’ll see a button and by pressing it you’ll capture a series of shots for the period of 1,5 seconds and it will go into Photos gallery. The original file will be wider than 16:9 image, so it’ll be a bit more difficult to crop the image. This feature is not dependable on the internet connection, which is very useful.
Organizing the shoot
Call your client before the shoot and ask to show his or her place: any room can have a potentially great spot for creativity. It is better to begin with simple things. A room with a white or solid color wall is the best place to start! Note every interesting object you’ll see: flowers, lamps, mirrors. All these objects can be used in the course of the shoot and they will make your pictures more authentic.
Natural light is your best friend just like on any other photo shoot. In my opinion, the best portraits are made with the soft light that comes through the window. Ask your client to take note of what kind of light enters each room throughout the day; it may help you plan the shoot in different rooms with the best conditions.
When you decided about shooting spots, help your client to choose what to wear. For example, if the interior is white, ask to wear something colorful or vibrant to look awesome in a picture. It is fine, if your client desires to dress casually for this photo shoot, just make sure clothes blend well with your location choice. The most important thing for your client is to wear something he or she feels amazing in! FaceTime camera automatically brightens any dark objects it sees, so try to avoid black clothes or objects in a picture at all. Usually, you can edit this problem in post-production, but not with FaceTime screenshots. If your model comes close to her window in a black t-shirt, her face will be overexposed badly.
Setting up the phone is the key moment of all this. The perfect item to help with that would be a tripod, but that’s a rare thing to find among regular people. This is the point where your client will have to improvise. Books on a chair, shelves or any stable objects can come in handy. If your client has a helping hand nearby, that is a perfect situation to use that person as an avatar.
What difficulties you may encounter
The most difficult part is to learn to coordinate your model because the image is mirrored on the phone. You want your model to understand where to turn, so practice a bit before you start the photo shoot. When shooting portraits, ask your model to look into the camera and not his or her image on a phone, otherwise, model’s eyes will look down.
If you want to use LivePhoto feature, be ready to wait. Pictures created by this feature may be loading within an hour after the call ended.
The result will be a series of screenshots that lack quality for printing. Although, if the idea is to show an authentic lo-fi mood, be brave and try to ask your client if they want to buy a photobook with these images. It is a good idea for additional income.
This type of pictures won’t require any hard work really. All you have to do is to use presets, self-developed or bought. For example, I use Rockshutter presets all the time, and these screenshot images are PERFECT for it! I strongly advise adding grain to every picture to hide ugly artifacts and pixelation. If you use your phone, you can edit pictures in Snapseed app, but I personally prefer the toolset of Photoshop.
Try to convert some pictures to black and white. This is a perfect opportunity to train yourself. You’ll be able to see light and geometry in the picture and how they affect the composition.
Remember, this type of photo shoot, Non-contact PhotoShoot, will definitely test your skillset as a photographer. Just finding a new stylish preset and using it to get a thousand likes won’t work, you’ll have to feel and “see” the shot you want to make. This is the true art and I find it makes my work worthwhile.