Saturday, 18 April 2009

Exercise 4: An active portrait

So yesterday I moved on to the active portrait exercise, and for once, I wasn't using my brother as the model. My friend, Chantal, is at university studying English and Philosophy, and she is aiming to become an author so I couldn't think of a better subject for my active portrait than Chantal, and to produce a "writer's portrait".

For this portrait, I sat Chantal at my desk with a few stragically chosen books (by Chantal) and a pad of paper and a pen and just asked her to write something, anything, that would get her to relax and into a natural writing pose. Whilst she started this, I set up the two lamps and allowed her time to settle, before looking for the best angle for the shot. I then waited for the right expression, and took a few shots as her expression changed. Below is the result of the shoot:

I am very pleased with this shot, the two lights were set up with one to Chantal's left, picking out her hair on that side and spilling into her face, and lighting the table somewhat and one on her right to mainly light her face and body, and the scene in general. I think this shot captures a natural writing pose, it is from a good angle where Chantal is clearly the subject of the picture, and she, and her writing, jump from the dark background.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Exercise 3: Experimenting with light

So I moved on to the third exercise the next time I had some free time. I had arranged for one of my friends to pose for me, but she had something else come up, so my brother had to suffice again! (just kidding, thanks Rob). The first image (below) was lit using window light on a cloudy day alone:

This is a fairly soft, but nice modeling light. It is reasonably directional, but just generally from the right hand side of the picture as it was a large window. It creates shadows on the left hand side of the nose, and face, and under the left hand side of the chin. It is appealing light, and models the face well.

Next I used the same light source, but I've added in a silver reflector on the left hand side of the picture to bounce light back into the face.

This is a very soft even lighting, with just enough modelling, but very few, and very soft shadows. This is very flattering lighting, and is a light I would use quite frequently with female sitters, as it gives a very soft look to the skin.

Next I used the blind to cut out the natural light and resorted to a flashgun. This light was bounced off the wall and the ceiling behind my head

This is an interesting lighting, it creates soft shadows under the chin, dimples in the cheek, and around the eyes. This isn't perfect, and would work better if a bit more light reached the eyes, but mimics daylight lighting quite well with the directional lighting from above.

Next I utilised some desk lamps I had laying around. This had one lamp directly behind the head, and one behind and to the right (looking at the photo)

This lights the narrow side of the face, causing the side of the face nearest the camera to be in shadow, and creates a rim light on the hair. This is a fairly dramatic lighting. This could maybe benefit with a bit more light reflecting back into the shadow just to lift a bit more detail from it, but this sort of lighting would be good for maybe a writers portrait as it is dramtic, and almost creates that dark work room sort of look.

The last shot I went for a shot with flash again, this time off camera and direct, from below and slightly to the left, using a fairly narrow beam

This has created a very harsh light, a very dramatic light, with very hard shadows on the left hand side of the face and nose, and a lot of the hair disappearing into the background. It creates the appearance that the sitter is almost emerging from the unknown. It does emphasise any imperfections on the skin though, so has to be used with care.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Exercise 2: Thinking about location

I am a bit late with my write up for this excersise due to a busy two weeks. I actually did this excersise in conjunction with exercise 1, which shall become obvious later in this write up. I went on a little trip in my local area, searching for locations, and I managed to find quite a number of varied views that would work for backgrounds

My first location was on my way to Dungeness, I spotted this nice desolate location, within some dead looking trees. This would add interest to portraits as well as helping to create a bit of a disturbing atmostphere. I think it would work best in monochrome too. There are some problems with the location though, it is very open, which means it is often subject to direct light. This would mean I would either have to use diffusers to create a softer light, or wait for a cloudy day, to create an attractive lighting and not be too harsh

On arriving at Dungeness I immediately headed towards the sea to lie on the stones and relax listening to the sea roll in. Whilst I was doing this and looking out to sea, I realised that this was a beautiful scene, and would work well as a portrait location, and with the sea being so vast, it could be photographed from a number of different angles without changing the view much, so could be adapted to the best light, as well as actually being used as a prop in the photos too, by having the model in the shallows of the sea, maybe lying down with waves lapping over them, or just splashing round their ankles. However this again suffers from the direct sunlight problem, and introduces water into the equation, so clothes might get wet, so there are quite a few logisitics that need to be worked out.

After my trip down Dungeness for a bit of photography, I came back home and continued my search for locations, and I was amazed at what I found. Their were plenty of bright colours and different textures in my garden alone and I managed to find four very varied backgrounds to complete the set here. Below is the first, our garden shed. This has a beautifully strong wooden orange colour, along with a gorgeous wooden texture. It isn't the largest shed, so would require some restricted posing, and as you can see from the photograph, there is uneven lighting so again would require either working to the light (which could create some interesting results) or reflecting and defusing the light. With the right model, and some work I do think this would be an interesting background to work with though

Not far from my shed we have this line of trees, and although geographically they are very close, in a background for a portrait shot, they would look completely different. The strong green colour and great texture, as well as adding a natural theme to the photograph. The light here, although direct, is also shaded later in the day, so it is quite a versatile location as it gets both natural direct sunlight, and shaded light, so can be used for a variety of effects.

I love this next background, it is a very modern background, and the sort of style I like to photograph. Very bold blue colour, contrasts great with some cloth, and compliments certain eye colours, and other clothing choice. The metal is also reflective so adds another dynamic to the photograph, allowing you to both see more of the model, and some of what they are "looking at". Care would have to be taken though over the reflection of the photographer not appearing in the image though as this would spoil the effect in my opinion. Although I didn't choose it for my portrait this time, I would love to try it in another one of my shoots.

And now this location should look familiar, as it is the one I chose to use for my portrait, or portraits, as I looked for the location in this exercise, to do exercise 1 with. This for me was a very good background, a number of useful elements in it. Lines of the brickwork could be used well to lead the eye into the subject, the texture creates and interesting background, and the colour complemented my subjects eye colour. Also a big plus for me was the light. It was in shade, and so had a very even, but still bright enough light. It created a lovely soft light for the portraits. To see the examples of the portrait photographs I took here see exercise 1.

This was a usual exercise, it got me looking at real world objects, and seeing how they could be used as locations for my portraits. A number of locations work well as both scenic locations for a portrait, and an abstract background, meaning a number of different looking photographs could all be taken in one location. It has also definately opened my eyes to the number of different locations there are out there for portraits.