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Portraits Gone Old-School

Ian Jones uses his Tamron 28-75mm Di III RXD lens to showcase vintage Pittsburgh Steelers attire.

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By Jenn Gidman
Images by Ian Jones

About five years ago, Ian Jones moved into an apartment with one of his friends, an amateur photographer. Ian had never gravitated toward photography—"it seemed so confusing to figure out how to use a DSLR; I'd tried before and couldn't make the camera do what I wanted it to do"—but his friend finally convinced him one day to go out for a shoot.

"I enjoyed it and started taking more and more pictures," Ian says. "From there I started posting on Instagram more. Those two things in combination pushed my love of photography to where it is now. I do the marketing, photography, and graphic work for two businesses, and I also have my personal photography on the side. I've been taking more portraits recently, and I also enjoy food photography, product photography, and street photography. Because I've been growing my Instagram and getting more eyes on my content, I've been receiving more and more inquiries lately to take pictures, and I don't say no to a lot of jobs."

One of those jobs that Ian didn't turn down was a recent photo shoot featuring vintage Pittsburgh Steelers clothing. "My friend Aadam works for Very Local, a user's guide to Pittsburgh," he explains. "They wanted to do a photo shoot to correspond with the Steelers' home opener. Aadam had seen some of my other work shot in downtown Pittsburgh and wanted me for this job. Very Local provided the models and had a vintage clothing company come in and dress the models."

To capture these photos, Ian used his Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD lens on a Sony full-frame mirrorless camera. "When I bought my Sony, some people recommended a really expensive lens," he says. "But I'd been reading great reviews about the Tamron 28-75, and it was available at a much more affordable price point, so I figured I'd give it a try. It's a super-versatile focal-length range, it focuses very fast, and it's light and compact, which is especially important to me when I'm doing my street photography."

Because he's a Pittsburgh native, Ian knew exactly how and where he wanted to take the pictures for this series: He took his models down to the city's North Shore, where Heinz Stadium, the Steelers' arena, is located. "We started at one end and just walked around the stadium until we got to the other end," he says. "If I spotted something that would serve as an interesting background or other photographic element, we'd simply stop and take a few photos. The entire shoot took about two hours."

For portraits like the ones seen here, Ian prefers to shoot during the golden hour. "Everyone's skin looks so warm, and the skin tones are super-natural," he says. "You don't want your images in general to look unnatural, but that's especially true with portraits. Plus, the colors with this lens are true to life, which helps me achieve exactly that natural look I'm going for."

Getting his subjects to feel at ease wasn't too challenging. "I'm good at taking people's pictures because I like to goof around," he says. "While I take each job seriously, in terms of getting the job done and doing it right, I don't take how we're doing it too seriously. I try to be as real as possible, be approachable, and make my subjects laugh when I can. That makes them instantly relax. I recently took photos of a young man who just graduated college, and he needed pictures of himself in a suit for his website portfolio. He was pretty rigid and awkward at first, but by the end of the shoot I had him laughing. If you look at the photos, he looks completely different than he was projecting in real life."

When posing his subjects, Ian first tries to figure out where the sun is and how it will play into the frame. "I move around more than I have my subjects move around, because I usually want the sun flaring a bit in the image—that's just the type of look I prefer," he says. "I'll take several shots with my subjects in the same position, except I'll have them vary if they're looking directly at me or away from me, which gives the image a more voyeur-like feel."

To set his portraits apart, Ian tries to capture every bit of detail, then bring it out in post-processing. "I'm very involved in the editing process," he says. "Editing is where I really try to shine. It bothers me when I see a photo of a model with a blemish on her face, or her eyes aren't crisp. You'll never see a piece of hair out of place or skin tones that don't look quite right in my images. I make sure I fix all of that in post-processing, and I enjoy doing it."

Read on for Ian's thought process on some of the images from his Steelers apparel series.

© Ian Jones
28-75mm (28mm), F/2.8, 1/320th sec., ISO 200
Click image to view larger

I don't usually approach the way I photograph men and women differently—if I see an image in the editing process that doesn't look flattering, then I simply won't release it if I can't tweak it. Many times, photographers will take pictures of guys from a lower angle, because shooting up at them makes them look more powerful. I like doing the same, though, with women. Plus, when this 28-75 lens is wide open and you get down low, you get the feel of an even wider view, with more of the environment incorporated.

© Ian Jones
28-75mm (52mm), F/2.8, 1/500th sec., ISO 200
Click image to view larger

There was a bit of downtime while we were catching a subway, when I saw the sun coming in from behind one of my subjects. It was a perfect moment. Because I try to bring action into my photos as often as possible, to make the image more visually compelling, I had my subject start to toss the ball up and down in the air. I love that this Tamron lens can quickly latch onto a moving object like that and keep its focus on it. It really helps for pictures like this.

© Ian Jones
28-75mm (39mm), F/2.8, 1/640th sec., ISO 200
Click image to view larger

This is the same guy as the one I had tossing the football in the air. I often try to get shots of people sitting down and looking more relaxed when I can, but I shot him from a bit of a lower angle so his positioning looks more powerful, as I was talking about earlier. I also liked the way I was able to use the curb here as a leading line of sorts.

© Ian Jones
28-75mm (43mm), F/2.8, 1/640th sec., ISO 200
Click image to view larger

I had the same mindset here as I did with the guy tossing the football. If you're familiar with the Steelers, you know fans bring a rally prop called the "Terrible Towel" to games and spin it around. I wanted to capture an authentic-looking fan photo here to show that feeling of excitement of being at a game. I love the warm light coming in from behind my subject, but I was also pleased to see I took the shot at the exact moment the sun itself appears right on the "horizon" of the towel.

© Ian Jones
28-75mm (44mm), F/3.5, 1/160th sec., ISO 200
Click image to view larger

For this photo, we were trying to shoot a cover for a magazine Very Local had in mind. Originally I'd wanted the girl with the blue hair, Meredith, up where my male subject was, but when they started arranging themselves they just naturally ended up in these positions, and it worked. I liked the way the male model's feet actually ended up on Meredith's shoulder; it looks really natural. And those ripped jeans that my other female subject is wearing—they're so crazy looking, but also cool, and very eye-catching.

© Ian Jones
28-75mm (52mm), F/2.8, 1/320th sec., ISO 200
Click image to view larger

I love this photo of Meredith, because her hair just blends into the background. This lens has a maximum aperture of F/2.8, which gives me that buttery bokeh I'm looking for. Her face is focused, but then everything in back of her blurs nicely together. I tried to overexpose the sky a bit so it blends right in. I like adding up-close shots like this into the mix. It feels a little more intimate.

Image 7 (3239, guy in window)
© Ian Jones
28-75mm (66mm), F/2.8, 1/250th sec., ISO 200
Click image to view larger

This reflection shot is my favorite photo from the series. I'd like to say I had some elaborate thought process on this image, but this was totally not a planned photo. My subject was just standing there when I noticed how amazing the whole scene looked, and the subway started taking off right at that second. I took probably 10 or so rapid-fire shots in a row. People often say that I notice things before others do, and this photo opportunity definitely caught my eye at exactly the right moment.

To see more of Ian Jones' work, go to www.isjdesigns.com.

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