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Give your next portrait shoot a fresh look with these three simple but creative ideas.

You won’t need lots of space, just a little pre-planning and your Olympus camera.

Bed sheet backgrounds

CREATE UNUSUAL BACKGROUNDS FROM LOW-COST DUVETS

Try to look for different angles and how the light affects your image. Light and shadow can turn a good shot into a great shot. I always try to be creative with my photos and as I shoot on my own a lot I enjoy utilising the OI Share App, using my phone as a remote control to get photos with me in them to achieve this. OI Share is also worth having if you want to share your travel photos on the go. You can transfer images without the need for your computer, or any fuss, straight from your camera to your phone and instantly share them with family, friends and on social media. For this image, I used the M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 on the OM-D E-M1 Mark II.

KIT NEEDED: CAMERA, LENS AND BED SHEET

For this project Gavin recommends the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro or, for a shallower depth-of-field, the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 Pro

Being stuck with just one or two backgrounds can make your portraits look a bit repetitive, so sometimes it’s important to try out a new look. You could go down the professional photo background route and buy something that lasts a lifetime, or you can take the DIY approach and get something you can use a couple of times and move on. If the latter sounds good to you, duvets are a great solution.

While there’s no shortage of bed sheets and duvet covers to choose from, look for the ones that advertise themselves as “easy iron” or “crease free” – this will make a massive difference when you need to hang your background.

Once up, you’ll still need to steam out the worst creases, which is not fun but it is important. Another handy tip is to place something weighty inside, such as a length of timber. If it’s roughly the same width as the duvet, it should hang more evenly.

When it comes to the photography, using a shallow depth-of-field will help to hide small creases. A lens such as the M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.2 Pro is perfect for the job.

A simple black hat

MAKE THE MOST OF ONE SIMPLE PROP

It’s often easy to forget to take time to take in all of your surroundings, even in the most mundane of places. This photo was taken in a car park in Hamburg, not the most glamorous of locations, however one of my favourite shots and I was glad to have had my wide-angle M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens on my camera. On this occasion I was using my OM-D E-M10 Mark III which may be the smallest of the OM-D range but is still reliable, attractive and very capable. The tilt-out screen is a great feature as it allows you to look up without getting neck ache!

KIT NEEDED: CAMERA, LENS, FLASH AND HAT

For this project Gavin recommends the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro and the Olympus FL-900R

Props can really boost the success of your shoot. They add some styling to your photos and they give the model something to interact with. Almost anything can become a prop, but hats are one of the most versatile things you can find. In this case I used a basic black sun hat with a wide brim, against a plain black background for a low-key look. Work with this basic set-up to create as many different photos as possible and you may find that you produce some surprising results.

Hats with brims cast shadows – the bigger the brim, the bigger the shadow. You can use that shadow to create a mysterious look where you can’t see the models eyes. Tilt the hat back and ask your model to look at the light and you will produce a very different shot.

Then there’s the direction of the light. If you’re using an off-camera flash such as the Olympus FL-900R, move it around your model for a high contrast, rim light shot. The key is to work with your model, bounce ideas around and try something new. Your portrait photography will improve very quickly as a result.

One colour portraits

CREATE IMPACT BY USING A SINGLE COLOUR

KIT NEEDED: CAMERA AND ZOOM LENS

For this project Gavin recommends the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro or, if your background is smaller, the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 Procan work well too

Nothing catches the eye like a serious splash of colour, so why not exploit this idea by controlling the palette and focussing on a single colour. Primary colours such as red, yellow, blue or green are probably the easiest to target because you need to find a background, props and clothing that are all a fairly close match.

It’s unlikely that you’ll have everything you need just lying around your home, so be prepared to put in some shopping time. Online stores can help to speed things up, but don’t be surprised if those red sunglasses you ordered turn out to be orange when they arrive.

A matching background is vital. You could paint a wall, but that’s a bit extreme. If you’re good with flash, you can light a grey background with a coloured gel. But if you’re only shooting head shots, a sheet of either coloured or painted mounting board is a great option.

Your background will fill the frame far more if you use a longer lens such as the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro. Stand back and zoom in!

Article featured in Olympus Magazine Issue 59 – to see the latest copy of this free digital magazine click here.