Monthly Archives: November 2012

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

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.