Monthly Archives: November 2012

People & Place- Assignment 1

After some re-writes, contemplation and review, i’ve finally got assignment 1 ready.

Assignment Brief

Drawing together you experiences in completing the projects so far, take one person as a subject and create between five and seven different portraits.

These should differ in tope and style, and each be from a separate photographic session.

In your learning log:-

– Critically assess you finished work. Consider each portrait individually

– Identify what has worked well and what has been less successful and analyse the reasons for this

– Consider where you need to strengthen your own skills and understandings and explain how you hope to achieve this


Edwards (2009) when writing his introduction says that ‘A portrait is about conveying mood- be it happiness, sadness, strength or vulnerability- but it must also create an emotional response in its viewers, so that they ask themselves who is this person, what is their story, and what were they thinking about when the photo was taken’ I wanted to use this assignment as an opportunity to get some photographs of my subject that were more than just snapshots taken while we’re out and about and while I don’t think my study has been extensive enough to cover a full range of emotions as mentioned by Edwards, I feel that I’ve captured happiness, certainly a sense of joy in images such as ‘the swing’ and moments of contemplation.

I’d planned to undertake this during a week’s holiday as I knew that I would have a camera of some description with me most of the time and that I could have different locations and poses due to the nature of the holiday. I tried to get a different mix to give me the widest choice available to select what I felt was the best images. The images were taken in and around Buxton and the Peak District and I used a combination of a Canon 7d and an Olympus EP1 Pen.

The Images

Image 1: Out Walking

This was taken during a walk on a dull and overcast day; I used the attached flash on the camera just to brighten the face under the cap, although I like the effect of the catch light in the subject’s eyes. For the composition I wanted to ensure the face was prominent in the frame but I also liked the background which while slightly out of focus, adds to the subject’s outdoor clothing and helps to add context to the image. I wasn’t concerned about losing some of the cap as I wanted the face to be both high and prominent in the frame to focus the viewer’s attention.

I was concerned that the sky at the top of the image was too white, however after some minor processing within Photoshop adjusting the tones of the image, the subtle colours within the sky are evident.


Image 2: The Swing

One of the benefits of my camera is the continuous shooting mode which enabled me to capture a series of images capturing the subject as he is preparing to launch himself on a tyre swing. After looking through the series, this is my favourite. It was taken mid morning on another dull day- the week was early November so this was expected, I used an additional flashgun and diffuser attached to the hot shoe just to add a little bit of extra light as the subject coat and the background were both quite dark. While I am aware that I need to be conscious of anything in the background that could disrupt the final image, I wasn’t overly concerned about the wooden pole as I wanted that connection with the chain, and while the viewer can’t see that its directly a swing, hopefully this with the expression might give the feeling that this is a fun portrait and activity. Even though the subject has their eyes narrowed a lot so that the pupils are not that obvious, I liked the natural smile, being from within a series of images, it captures the moment and personality which is what I wanted as while I was taking this seriously we had a laugh at the time.


Image 3: Phone Call

One morning before setting out for a day’s walking, my subject had to make a quick phone call and it was at that moment when they were distracted and writing an address down, that I captured this image. I like the colours, the bright colour of my phone, the orange and brown of the sofa echoing the orange of the top and the very natural pose and subject. I used the natural daylight that was coming in from the window and the door for this with no additional lighting. While it’s not a classic portrait, it shows a different side to the subject and when viewed within the context of the series, provides an interesting contrast to the rest.


Image 4: Climbing Higher

Taken in the same location as the swing image, we’d seen these a few times while walking through the park and they looked interesting. While the park was empty, I wanted to take advantage of the props available and the subject liked these and decide to climb on them, the pose was accidental- he reached forwards to the other pole and I asked him to stay there while I took the shot, having to work quickly while the pose was not one that could be sustained. I like the full length pose with the shape contrasting with the upright pillars. I didn’t use flash for this, just the natural daylight.


Image 5: Reflection

I’d been experimenting with a different type of portrait, either focusing on the face so that the hand was out of focus, or vice versa. It was taken indoors with halogen spotlights in the background and diffused flash on the camera pointed up slightly as I wanted it to bounce and not be direct on the subject. I chose a low angle as I wanted to focus on the hand and then use the arm to lead the viewer into the subjects face. I asked him to look away and made sure that I had the most neutral background available.


Image 6: Mine

I’ve always liked the close up portraits that don’t focus on the subjects face but on something that stands out as different such as hands or feet, something that can be striking and an eye catching change. As I took the seated image focusing on the hand, this just struck me as a good subject to focus on and an image that I’d certainly like to keep if I was the customer. The lighting was halogen lighting with diffused flash and you can see from the slight shadow on the hand where the diffused light fell to, but it gives a shine on the wedding ring which to me is one of the most important focus points. The rest of the image is in quite neutral tones with the brown and creams that make the hand stand out against the armchair.



I have to admit that when I first started this module, I wasn’t feeling very confident about taking portraits, whether it was friend or stranger. I was aware that I needed to strengthen my skills and in part I did this with a supplementary course which enabled me to have access to people willing to act as models. While I feel I still have some way to go in feeling totally comfortable with strangers, when I have a willing subject I’m happy that I can direct them to ensure that I get the images I want. I‘d like to have more knowledge for different poses and what works well in different locations but this will come with experience and I plan to keep reading a wide variety of books and magazines both from my own collection and the library to help me to progress with this.

Undertaking this assignment was undoubtedly made easier by the fact that I planned this to coincide with a week’s leave enabling me to have enough time to take the images and not be rushed, to have a variety of different locations and backgrounds and for my subject to be relaxed which helped a lot. Earlier exercises where you maintain a rapport with your subject to keep them relaxed were vital in enabling me to keep the subject relaxed and I think this shows in some of the images where they are posed.

In reflection, I’ve read comments in the past that imply that in a portrait you see as much of the photographer as you do of the subject and after writing this assignment and reviewing my comments and the images, I feel that’s true. The subject is my husband so at starting this, I had an interest to produce images that were not only for this exercise, but also what I’d like to see in some extent, especially with ‘Mine’, and I’m sure that I will reflect on this as I progress and as I look back at my past work as my identity becomes stronger and move developed.

Bibliography & References

· Angier, Roswell (2007) Train your gaze: A practical and theoretical introduction to portrait photography. AVA Publishing

· Edwards, Rod (2009) Photographing people like a pro- a guide to digital portrait photography. David & Charles Publishing

· Freeman, Michael (2004) Photographing People. Ilex publishing

· Hope, Terry (2000) Portraits-Developing style in creative photography. Rotovision

Just found this

While googling for something totally different, I came across this link for the winners of the World Press Photo competition 2012.

Some really amazing images in there, some shocking but what amazes me is the technical skill involved, especially in ‘On Revolution Road’ where its all action and obviously a highly terrifying situation to be part of. It puts me to shame but also spurs me on to get better and keeping growing as a photographer.

Exercise: Varying the pose

For this, set up a portrait session where the sitter adopts 3 different positions:-

I had a mental block when thinking of poses, even though I’d been looking through different books for tips. The obvious poses were sitting and standing, after that I didn’t have a clue so when I was out with the camera, I was thinking on my feet as to what I could do. Luckily there were a number of items that could be used as props as we were in the gardens of a stately home. The first sitting pose took advantage of a large pipe on the balcony. The second sitting pose was on the heated floor of a greenhouse. Diane had her camera in her hand so they were occupied and not distracting, although I think I’d have preferred the background to be a bit more out of focus but this could be rectified by positioning the subject further away and by changing my camera position. We have two standing poses with Diane, a basic standing there posing and the second one is a more relaxed and fun pose that just happened on the spur of the moment when we saw a wooden veranda. The final pose is a group pose to see how easy it is to find poses that a number of people can do, I experimented with the subjects in a row, one behind each other, in a pyramid formation, crouching and in the end I like this one as its fun, has a sense of action and isn’t too formal. I’ve learnt from this that you need willing subjects who don’t mind getting on the floor or on wet benches and that you can try poses but some won’t work and you have to try something different, and that even when you think you’re happy with a pose, tweaking it could give an even better image.

group posedSeated1seated2standing posedstanding1

Exercise: Focal length

In this exercise plan to make exactly the same framing on a fence with different focal lengths. With a zoom lens, use at least three; at either end of the zoom scale and in the middle.

Examine the results. The proportions will be different, and in general, the longer the focal length, the more attractive the face will appear. Note your own judgement of the differences according to how attractive or acceptable you think the results look.

I was using a 28-200mm zoom for this, its not my usual lens so I was interested to see how it was for portraits, all of the images within these exercises were undertaken using it through the different focal lengths so by the time I came to this exercise, I wanted to try something different and see how the same pose would look through three different lengths, the first one the lens is at wide angle to take in the background and full length portrait, the second is towards the middle of the zoom and gives a really nice upper torso portrait with the background starting to get a bit more blurred and not too distracting. The final image with the lens on its higher zoom gives a better portrait, the background is blurred and non obtrusive, the face is prominent and the eye is drawn to this first. The face is a good shape without obvious signs of any distortion, this is the advantage of a longer lens over a wide angle one which can alter the shape of the face.

32mm far110mm mid200mm close

32mm                                 110mm                             200mm

Exercise: Review a portrait sequence

Set up a portrait session in a formal and structure way so that you have a consistent setting and framing.

Take at least 20 shots for different expressions. Concentrate on the expression; write down frame by frame progress of your subject’s expression

What did I feel were the best images at the time and how does that compare to my thoughts now. Had it affected how I’d direct the subject

To start with, I didn’t use a tripod but with the aid of continuous shooting and close framing, I feel that this gave me better results.

I had a perfect subject for this exercise, it was at the end of a day learning about portrait photography and we’d all moved from strangers to being friends over the day, the rain had started to come down, light was fading and we were just strolling back to the classroom. While waiting for one of the group to catch up we were just stood there chatting, myself with Hazel (the subject) and Lyn. This proved to be the perfect situation as Hazel was looking mostly at Lyn for the start so I was able to get some subtle photographs without her realising that I was snapping as well as talking and the advantage of continuous shooting gave me a good selection to choose from. The least successful is obviously the one where she has her eyes shut; this was captured due to the continuous shooting and in a normal exercise would be deleted. The acceptable image is the next frame along where Hazel has opened her eyes which is an interesting portrait but there are better in the series. The choice between good and best was quite small as I like both of them as portraits. For me, good is full of character, Hazel is a relaxed subject and it shows the essence of the day where even though the weather was damp, we were still enjoying ourselves. Best just edged out the good photograph because it’s a more traditional portrait, subject filling the frame, looking away from the camera, smiling and looking relaxed. The exercise certainly captured the different facial changes and expressions that my subject went through and I prefer the effects of this to a posed photograph. I wouldn’t direct my subject differently if I revisited this, I’d be conscious that they needed to have some distraction to relax them and to spend time with them so that they were more relaxed with the camera around

a) Not good


b) Acceptable


c) Good


d) The best single shot


Exercise: Eye contact and expression

For this exercise, set up a portrait session in which the face is prominent and over the course of shooting direct your subject to look towards you and away.

Keep the communication between you and the subject through conversation and gesture.


For this exercise there were a few of us taking images and taking it in turns to be the model and the subject. Diane was sat on the floor of a greenhouse which gave a really nice background and light. It was easy to direct her to look at me and then look away as we were very conversational and we’d been out taking photographs earlier in the day so were quite relaxed at this point. I think the benefit of spending time with the subject gives a more relaxed portrait.

Portrait Photography

For the next few exercises, I actually combined the requirements of the exercises with an introductory course in photographing friends and family.

I booked onto the course for a couple of reasons, I hadn’t had any experience of portrait photography and thought that it might be a good idea to supplement my OCA learning as well as pushing me out of my comfort zone, the second point-my available subjects are few and far between.

The course itself was affordable and a good introduction, you were expected to know what your camera did and how to get it set up correctly, most of us were Canon users- all with a mixture of slr’s but essentially they’re pretty much the same so we were able to help each out (well I helped as the ‘q’ quick setting button helped me to get started quite quickly and is easily the one of the best features of that camera)

Anyway I ended up in a great group with 3 people I’d never met previously and luckily we all just gelled. While were all camera shy to some extent, the freedom to just go out and experiment contributed to a very enjoyable and fun day that flew by and I hope that I will be in touch with Lyn, Diane and Hazel in the future.

While I did get verbal permission from them for my blog, I just wanted to extend a very big thank you and hope we can have more camera days as a group- possibly studio portraits?

Exercise: Active portrait

Discuss with the subject an activity that they feel comfortable with. Concentrate on the person and the facial expression

For this exercise, I decided to use my husband as a subject as he was available and as he has recently started flying model aeroplanes and we knew that with the concentration required for that would mean that he would very not be aware of me pointing a camera at him. We went to the model club where he flies and as non flyers are not allowed on the field, I took my 100-400 lens so I was able to zoom in and get the facial expression. Unfortunately as he is just in the learning stages, he has a buddy teacher who can get control if required and he was stood at the side of my subject and despite trying different compositions and their positioning in the field, I couldn’t get my subject on his own. I can revisit this in the future once he has more experience in flying.

active portrait

Exercise: Experimenting with light

Take between 4-6 head and shoulder portraits in different lighting effects. Consider the time of day, weather, reflected light, filtered light etc. I’d previously undertaken an exercise in the Art of Photography course which had exercises on different lighting within that so I had a few ideas on what could be done.

Different lighting effects could be:-

– Inside natural light diffused by window

– Chair with halogen light and reflector

– Outside daylight

– Diffused light from flashgun

– Candlelight

– Directed light from a snoot or cone

I decide to make use of the natural light both indoors and outdoors while it was early in the day supplementing this with external flash on the camera and a white reflector held by the subject under the face.

Indoor light with flashgun and white reflector

Indoors flash with reflector

Outside natural light

Natural light

Indoor light with flashgun with small diffuser fitted

Indoors light with flashgun

Outside with flash (way too much, didn’t need it)

Outside natural with flash

Exercise: Thinking about location

Find six very different settings or backgrounds attractive for whole body or torso portraits. Need to consider the lens focal length, camera position and lighting.

Return to one of these locations with a subject and photograph them.

I’ve tried to choose a diverse selection of locations for this and had a lot of ideas of locations and even found some more when I went out to


Metal bench- Used 24-60mm at 55mm focal length

I chose this as I liked the colour contrast of red and green and the recurring pattern of the fence, it would be a good option for a seated portrait with the subject looking at the camera or away. This wouldn’t need any additional lighting and this images was taken on a cloudy dull day.


Brick wall in street- Used 24-60mm at 26mm focal length

I tried this with originally just the brick wall filling the frame but then it didn’t quite grab me and definitely needed a model to stand in front of it, I changed the composition to the get the corner and the lamppost and I think it works better as it gives more context about where it is, the eye has plenty to look at and I can envisage a model stood closer to the corner. I like the different colour brickwork and the subtle pattern of the brick that will enhance an image but not detract from it by being too patterned.


Field- Used 100-400mm at 100mm focal length

This was taken in the middle of a bright autumn day. I liked this as it’s a direct contract to some of

the other images. The background has different textures in it and falls nicely into defined thirds of

sky, embankment and grass. I’d use this for a standing portrait and it could be used for one subject

or a group.


Playground climbing wall- Used 24-60mm at 39mm focal length

I was drawn to the different shapes and textures first as part of this composition and then colour, as soon as a saw it I could imagine someone leaning on it. This was taken in the late afternoon so I didn’t need any other lighting but you would need something if using this as location in the evening.


Alleyway- Used 24-60mm at 24mm focal length

I found this alleyway by chance, the gate has been left open and I liked the leading lines down into the image. I converted this to black and white as the light was quite dull and the tones were all quite brown and grey which I knew would have more punch if it was converted. I also wanted the contrast with the rest of my location images which were colour. I didn’t use any lighting for this but I could imagine using a spotlight to shine down the middle in lower light.


Garden chairs- Used 24-60mm at 24mm focal length

This was a location I’d had in mind for some time, we’d recently changed the patio area and moved it onto this side and it looks more photogenic than the previous location. I liked the relaxed feel that the chairs and table have and I can imagine that this would make a really good location for a seated portrait but with some interest on the table as well. To improve the image I’d crop it slightly at the top to remove the washing line.


For the location to return back to with a model, I decided to go back to the alleyway as I liked the leading lines and the fact that its not really photographed by anyone else in the neighbourhood. In keeping with the original image I’ve converted this to monochrome.

location bw