5 Things to Consider When Shooting Overhead Portraits

When working in photography, it’s safe to say the possibilities are endless. Every day new ideas and creativity stem breathtaking imagery we could only have previously imagined. One such example is overhead portraits. While overhead photos can be stunning, they bring on their own unique set of problems. From helpful tips to camera safety, photographer Gavin Hoey provides a little more understanding about shooting overhead portraits:

Working with overhead photography can be very different than your typical photo shoot. While some areas, such as safety, are still essential to keep in mind, there are a variety of other considerations distinctive to this style of photography. To help prepare for your overhead photo shoot, always make sure to consider the following.

1. Safety

The type of gear you should use for overhead photography depends on how many shots you plan on doing. For instance, if you only plan on taking a couple of pictures, it’s fine to use a step stool. However, if you plan on taking photos for any length of time, you need to use a boom arm setup. While boom arms come in all shapes and sizes, you should always think about the safety of the gear and your model when using them. You can easily accomplish this by ensuring your boom arm is balanced out. For additional safety add a sand bag at the bottom, and point the leg out in the same direction as your boom arm.

2. Background

Normally when you take a portrait, you have a separation between your model and the background, but when working with the floor as your background, this generally cannot happen. It’s essential to consider your background choice, because in the end, it will matter.

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Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II, f/11, 1/200 of a second, ISO 200, 27mm

3. Posing

There are two important factors to consider when deciding on your poses:

  1. Where the model will be looking
  2. Gravity

While the majority of us understand how gravity works, it doesn’t always play out the way you expect it to when lying down. For instance, during the video to achieve the look of Adrienne’s hair falling naturally into place, Hoey had to manually adjust her hair by tucking in strands.

4. Lighting

When working with overhead portraits, your lighting situation is different. You have to think of lighting in terms of everything being flipped around. For instance, if you normally light your photo from the front and slightly above (meaning farther away), you would need to place your lighting higher (or further away from the camera).

5. Exposure

To help determine what exposure level, use a meter reading. After you set up your flash meter, meter your lighting exactly as you would if your subject was standing or sitting up. Once complete, do a test shot to ensure you like how your image is being illuminated, and if needed, add a second light to balance out your lighting.

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