Thursday, 24 November 2011

Thinking, Reviewing and Planning

My first project has pulled me up short. I've realised that when it comes to photographing people I don't really know what I'm doing. I read the notes and understand what is required but I find it difficult to put into practice. I've never been that good at interacting with other people and when I ask a subject to pose in different positions that look convincing (even people I know) I find myself floundering. I knew this would be the case. It's why I set myself the challenge of doing People and Place.

For the last few days, rather than continue with the projects, I've been reading some web tips on how to take portraits. I've also joined a Flickr portrait group and signed up for a one day course in January. I also need lots and lots of practice - starting with hands...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Project 1 - Portrait, scale and setting

For my first project I had to set up a portrait session and select and shoot four different poses.
  • a cropped, head shot
  • head and shoulders
  • head, hands and torso
  • and finally, full figure including background.
I also needed to do some internet research into different poses and take note of aspects such as how the hands and head are dealt with.

I began by scouting for an interior that could be used in the full length shot that would not dominate the sitter. I had chosen to use my partner and a home location for practical reasons and I soon realised that making a full length composition in a house with fairly small rooms was going to be difficult. Every wall had an unwanted element such as a window, a picture, or a piece of furniture protruding into the shot. Using a tripod as suggested also caused problems as floor space was restricted and when I needed to pull back I bumped up against a TV or wall.

For my first attempt I settled on this location by the window. I did some test shots and I liked the angular lines of the furniture and window. The different planes of the window and coffee table also add a level of depth to the image. Unfortunately the exposure needed to stop the highlights through the window burning out cast the room into darkness. See the two images below. I tried using a reflector but the difference in natural light was minimal. For this shot facing the window some additional lighting is required. My subject was becoming restless and as I still hadn't taken a shot I made the decision to move to the side to eliminate the over bright window light. This was so I could proceed with the shoot and not get hung up on one small problem early on. If need be I could rethink the full length composition at a later time. At least I could continue shooting the other images.   

Image 1.

Image 2.

The interior exposure is much better now that the window has been eliminated. Unfortunately the composition is uninteresting and the pose looks horribly forced. This is the least embarrassing pose of the full length bunch. None of them work well and my partner was becoming bored. Rather than try to think up even more uncomfortable poses I decided to move on with the head and shoulders shots and come back to a full length portrait in another session once I had the composition and lighting sorted out.

Image 3.

The head and shoulders shots are more natural.

Image 4.

This torso shot was taken in an unguarded moment. I was using a remote and trying to distract the sitter in conversation. Note though that the hands clasped against the subjects knee tend to look distorted from this close. I was trying to avoid using a focal length less than 50mm but in a small house it becomes difficult to keep enough distance.

Image 5.

For the close-ups I took my camera off the tripod as it was becoming difficult to manoeuvre. I also processed these images as B&W to avoid the problems of skin blemishes and uneven patches of skin colour when taken close-up.

Image 6.

I got in as close as possible. My subject has started to relax more and the shots look more natural.

Image 7.

I tried several poses and angles. The seam on the sofa cushion is too distracting.

Image 8.

This is my favourite shot. It hasn't even been cropped so I am really pleased with it. The background is more neutral and is less of a distraction.

Image 9.

This one was taken a little closer and has a small crop to the left hand edge of the image. I think the diagonal of the eyes leading one way and the line of the nose leading down to the bottom left works really well. There is a "look" that comes through in the image. It is in the previous image too. It appears to give the subjects eyes depth and conveys an emotion. Now I just need to work out how I did that to be able to repeat it.

Image 10.

On reflection the location problems I encountered with image 1 through 3 need to be resolved. I will come back to this at some point - probably when I have sorted out some suitable lighting techniques. Images 4 & 5 (the head, shoulder and torso shots) are okay. They are nothing special. I need to work more on relaxing my model and also finding suitable poses that do not look false. Images 6, 7 and 8 are useable but can be improved. Images 9 & 10 work really well. I need to assess these in more depth and try to work out why this is and learn from it.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

First Post

This is my new learning log for People & Place.

I've studied The Art of Photography & Digital Photographic Practice so far - PAP is my final level 1 course for my BA.

The last two courses I have worked exclusively in digital format (no prints) and concentrated on my technical and compositional skills. I now want to get up to speed with printing. It has been useful to stay with digital while I honed my other skills but now I'm really looking forward to being able to hold a physical print.

I feel that I am now ready to branch out with this course and tackle a more difficult subject area (people/street photography.) I am not that comfortable photographing people whether it be portraits or candid and I've more or less shied away from this up till now. This course will be a challenge for me.