Portrait: Scale and Setting

Find a suitably interesting or attractive setting for a portrait. Vary the focal length of your lens and photograph the following:-

– Tight framing on the face

– Head and shoulders

– Torso (above or below the waistline and consider where the hands will be)

– Full body

Prepare by studying a number of examples from books and magazines.

For the setting I’ve the following options

– Outside in the garden on the patio chairs
– Living room leather armchair near bookcase
– Standing in front of the living room window with curtain as backdrop

In order to start this I’ve been looking through a mixture of different magazines and have found an example of each of these variations on portraiture to give me an indication of what these poses look like. Looking through the magazines has made me realises that portraits are much more common than I thought. I’d always had the view that a portrait would be carefully composed, the subject in a relatively close up position so framing on the face and maybe at most the torso. I’ve also been looking at paintings by artists I like such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and how he posed models, and then contrasting this to the portraits I’ve seen exhibited by Rolf Harris recently including a self-portrait.

portrait 001portrait 002portrait 003portrait 004

When I came to do this, I had some free time, the space to set up the tripod but no model as it’s hard to get family and friends to be available when I am. However as I wanted to get started on this and have been looking at a book by Natalie Dybisz on self portrait photography, I decided to use myself as a subject and test my new wireless remote control.

Usually I’m much happier behind the camera, I don’t like having my photograph taken, and remember my graduation portraits as an ordeal, although my wedding photographs were much more enjoyable- but I put that down to general feel of the day. After trying different locations, I selected a leather chair next to a bookcase as a good location for a sitting portrait. I could use the height of the chair as a guide for my composition and could visualise what I wanted. While I thought it was going to be tricky to move between subject and photographer, I actually enjoyed having the overall control and to just experiment with positions and expressions and to slowly get more relaxed in front of a lens. For me, experiencing the awkwardness myself was important and I need to ensure that in future I get my subjects to feel not necessarily relaxed but comfortable in front of a lens.

Face cropped in close

Scale- face cropped in closeScale- face cropped in close2

Head and shoulders

Scale-head and shoulders

Torso (with arms and hands)


Full figure

Scale-full figure

Looking back at the selection of the images, the closely cropped image really highlights the eyes and this holds the viewers attention. The second one after that is the head and shoulders image, while there is more to look at within the image, its the face that it the main attention point. The torso and full figure images have more distracting features- you look at what my hands and feet are doing so they have a lesser impact to the other two in the series.


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