Monday, 22 March 2010

Exercise 5: Eye-contact and expression

The brief for this exercise was to photograph one person in a set position, while directing them to variously look in different directions, in order to see the effect of changing eye-contact. The character of the photo changes depending on slight differences in where the eyes are directed.

I chose to photograph my Aunt, who was visiting. The photo session was at home due to poor weather again. I set the camera up on a tripod to keep the composition constant (head and shoulders) and to assist in maintaining communication between myself and my aunt. I used a mains flash shot through a white umbrella. All photos: f/4, 1/30s, 63mm.

Photo 1: Straight on view, whole face is directed straight towards the camera. The look is quite relaxed and honest, but obviously posed.

Photo 2: A second view where the eyes are straight to the camera, but the face is turned away. The effect is similar.

Photo 3: Here the face is straight on to the camera, but the eyes are directed just left of camera. This seems like a more natural photograph.

Photo 4: Here the face is turned away to the right, and the eyes follow in that direction - as if she is looking at something of interest out of our frame of view. In this case this doesn't work so well.

Photo 5. A more neutral expression, with face directed slightly left of camera, but with eyes looking off to the left and a little down. The combination of the more neutral smile and downcast eyes is slightly sad, or ambivilent at least - she looks a bit unsure.

Photo 6. A more extreme left-looking shot - with eyes following face. This works well in this case - she is looking at something of mild interest out of the photo, and the expression matches the look - ie she looks to be turning to look at something.

Photo 7. Similar to photo 6, the head is facing extremely away from the camera, but now the eyes are looking up. This simple difference means the whole face seems more lit up and happier looking, just by bringing the eyes upwards.

Photo 8. A slightly less extreme turning of the head, and eyes still looking up, in this case towards the light, which has reflected in her glasses. Again, by bringing the eyes up, the whole face lifts and seems happier.

This has been an interesting exercise in both considering where the eyes are directed to look, and also by learning more about how to direct a sitter what to do (not that easy!). Next time I would avoid having other people in the room, as she was occasionally distracted by the chatting, so I took a few photos of mouth open talking, which isn't ideal!

Exercise 2: Thinking about location

This exercise is focussed on choosing locations by looking around at various potential backgrounds. I have been taking photos for this exercise over the last few months, and took photos of my subject at two of them.

Photo 1: Modern Art Gallery, Edinburgh
An example of one of the many interesting old buildings in Edinburgh (actually not that old), which is consistently lit and interesting in texture but would not detract from a portrait photo location. The seat could also be used for the portrait sitter.

f/9.5, 1/180s, 34mm

Photo 2: Fruitmarket Gallery Stairs
This is my favourite gallery in Edinburgh - it is light and bright and modern. I think the stairs (two photos below) could both make for interesting portrait locations, and also potentially for 'people unawares' photos.

f/2, 1/45s, 50mm

f/2, 1/125s, 50mm

Photo 3: National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
This is a lovely new sandstone building in Edinburghs' old town. I think the large sandstone blocks could make for an interesting background for portraits. I have taken a photo of my subject in front of these blocks, from an angle, which makes the blocks recede off into the background, which is better than the front on view which I took in my first visit reference photo.

f/8, 1/125s, 50mm

f/9.5, 1/125s, 70mm

the sign at the front is also potentially a good spot for portrait photos

f/4, 1/125s, 50mm

Photo 4: Steps above the National Gallery of Scotland
The steps going down the the National Gallery, another nice sandstone building, combine to make an interesting portrait location. A short telephoto is required to compress the building into the background space, to avoid any sky or mess in the photo.

f/4, 1/350s, 50mm

Photo 5: Viewforth
These brick walls with red doors will make a good location for 'people unawares' photos, but could also be good for planned portrait photos. Again, the background is interesting, consistently neutral in colour and evenly lit, which will mean the focus will be on the person.

f/4.5, 1/125s, 40mm

Photo 6: Shopfront in Marchmont
This shopfront caught my eye because of the interesting colours. In order to be a successful location for a portrait, a telephoto lens would need to be used, and the person would have to stand away from the shop, in order to compress the shop to fill the background of the photo. The shop needs to be shut (ie weekend or early evening, depending on light levels) and care needs to be taken to avoid reflections in the glass.

f/3.5, 1/125s, 50mm

Photo 7: Napier University
These stairs at the back of Napier University would make another interesting, fairly neutral location for a portrait shoot - with someone wearing brightly coloured clothing ideally, to stand out against the grey background. The spiral stairs would be useful as a prop for posing also.

f/4.5, 1/90s, 70mm

Photo 8: Graffiti near the walking underpass, central Edinburgh
This graffiti is really colourful and interesting. I think it would make a good background for a portrait photography shoot because the subject (broody looking male) can really contrast with the bright, almost over-the-top background. Care needs to be taken when shooting towards the sun, because the paint is quite reflective. I chose to take some photos of my subject in this location, as his dark jacket and neutral facial expressions seemed to fit well with the background. I chose to shoot at a slight angle along the wall, which makes the background slowly lose focus towards the left of the second photo, which again adds emphasis to the person.

f/8, 1/500s, 27mm

f/9.5, 1/250s, 48mm

f/6.7, 1/500s, 58mm

This was an interesting exercise, and I hope to use some of these locations in future portrait sessions.

Baby boy

An update for those of you interested ... I've been away from the photography study for the last two months, as I've been busy (an understatement!) looking after my baby son... here is a photo of us together.

Hopefully getting slowly back into the non-baby photos soon, though that is lots of fun!