Exercise 1 – Portrait, scale and setting

For the first exercise in People and Place, we are asked to take a series of photos which are to show scale and setting, and attention to the face of the subject. This will be made up of four main areas of focus on the subject, that being:

  • Face, cropped and in close
  • Head and shoulders
  • Torso, taking into account arms and hands
  • Full figure

The course notes suggest finding a nice location with a pleasant background if possible. I decided to head down to a local golf course and see what we could use. I found an area under some trees that was in the shade, as the mid day light was fairly hard and would have risked too many highlight areas.

The camera I used for these images was a Sony A7 with a 28-70mm lens.

(click on any picture to enlarge)


Head close in

This first shot is really up close, with the top of the hair just slightly cropped to help focus in on the face. The subject is seated while looking slightly away from the camera. Due to the shaded area it has helped keep the overall exposure constant and with a very slight highlight on the right cheek as Elaine looks into the distance. The camera was set at 70mm, 640th sec at F5.6


Head and shoulders

This second shot was taken with the addition of the shoulders, with a posture position turning away from the camera so as not to look too ‘square’ into the camera. The addition to this is now the photo shows slightly more area behind the subject, giving away a possible location setting, but still allowing the viewer to concentrate on the face.


Torso shot

The shot for torso and hands is fairly difficult to get right, without it looking too mechanical. While keeping the subject almost the same position as before, I have moved away from Elaine to show the hand position and yet more of the surroundings. The background now becomes a major part of the framing. The position of the hands could help gives clues to the overall mood of the person.


Full figure shot

The final picture showing full figure shows clearly the seating position and background surroundings. The hand position is very important here as are the position of the legs and feet. I could have chosen to have Elaine sit maybe more on top of the large rock with legs bent and her hands wrapped around her legs. I decided to leave the positioning as in the photo, as this was a posture Elaine took naturally. I could have taken a more telephoto lens with a lower aperture to bur the background if needed.


From the variuos compositions, the close up of the face will be the most personal, and at the same time show any blemishes etc, so careful framing is required and if possible a slightly soft focus affect especially if shooting female portraits.

Head and shoulders can become very formal, such as the type of framing required for business people and the secret would be to ensure the subject is never face on and square to the camera, making the subject look too flat.

I think the torso and hands was the hardest to compose. Maybe if I had used the subject sitting at a table or in a more business type location such as an office, restaurant etc it would have been open to more hand positions.

The full body shot worked fairly well given the surroundings. It allowed the subject to open up and make the use of the rock area and look out to the distance with the face slightly into the sunlight. Given the position it would be hard not to allow parts of the background into the frame, but done properly the background would add to the picture, becoming either calm or allowing a more dramatic effect. My personal favourite would be the torso shot with just the hands in part of the frame, as this allows the photographer to become very creative if needed.




Getting started with People and Place

The Brief:

The second part of the ‘OCA Art of Photography’ course degree will concentrate on the subject of People and Place. Within this title will come two main types of portrait actions which include both People Aware, and People Unaware. In order to make the photographer more comfortable with people unaware, we are going to start with people aware to help break us in and become more comfortable.

Many photographers feel too embarrassed or concerned when it comes to taking pictures of strangers without the others consent, and a prime example would be street photography where you point a camera at someone walking by, hoping they either did not see the camera or they just don’t mind and carry on. Most of my work is done in Dubai, a middle eastern country where pointing a camera at someone in the street, shopping mall, metro station or office location may become a problem. When it comes to these situations I will need to be very careful how I go about this part of the course.

For the onset it will be fairly easy to take pictures of some close friends and family. My concern will be the limited choice of subjects without it becoming too repetitive with only a few chosen subjects at hand.

Suggested course reading material has been mentioned in the OCA notes, so I will need to see if these books are available here or if I need to order from Amazon.Co.UK and have them delivered. Portrait I must admit is not something I have a great deal of experience with so this will be a good learning experience for me. In addition Im sure I will  be gaining a lot of information form other web sites and professional portrait photographers.

Some of my  preferred portrait photographers I intend to study are Steve McCurry, whose book ‘Untold- The Stories behind the Photographs’ I already have, Lee Jeffries who is a great for his intense B&W photos, Rehahn, famous for photos taken in Vietnam and Cuba, Joe McNally, always one of my favourite photographers, David duChemin a renowned  Humanitarian photographer, and not forgetting some of the past greats such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, war photgrapher Robert Capa, and Gregory Heisler whose book ’50 Portraits’ is a classic and a must have book.

So onto the second section of my OCA course ‘People and Place. I hope you take time to browse my blogs and please free to comment.