Tutor Feedback – Assignment 1 A Portrait

I was happy to read the initial tutor report for my first assignment in People and Place. My tutor opens with the comments ‘This assignment is well considered. It has a good feeling about it showing a good range of your models personal aspects. You did well to consider the focus to be on the personality and this gave you a context to work with.’

My tutor also mentions adds ‘In order to improve is to start to take a few more risks and explore the ways my images can become more creative’. For this assignment I had taken images mostly of my wife, so it was suggested I giver her a rest and look into other areas..I have to agree on that! Therefore I need to start taking images of other people, and this can be a hard this to achieve here in Dubai at times due to culture issues, but I take it on board non the less.

In closing my tutor states ‘ The write up is brief yet clear and well articulated it shows good technical knowledge, with some analytical critique for each of the images. However there is quite limited self reflection – did you try something new – did you push yourself into an uncomfortable area ? Distance learning asks for you to do this and to comment on how it taxed you, the visual risks you took or did you stay comfortable. There are plenty of positives in this submission in terms of technique that can deliver your visualisation. Well done for getting it together – it’s no easy task but it will be rewarding and interesting along the way.’

I think the comments are fair, and I will try to include the suggestions made in my future submissions ahead.

Tutor Feedback People & Place Assignment 1



Assignment 1 – A Portrait

For the first assignment in the OCA degree photography course People and Place, the title is ‘A Portrait’. For this we are to submit between 5-7 images of one person, and if possible on separate sessions spaced over a period of time, putting together all the knowledge we have learned so far in the previous exercises. This first submission is not graded but is a means for the tutor to gain an idea of the students abilities and for review.

I have found this first section very very hard, mainly due to work issues and time, moving house, as well as pinning down subjects who are available at the same time and location as myself. I have also found myself having mental blocks pushing other people to be my subjects for fear of rejection (only in the sense of not wanting their photo taken) and that I maybe imposing too much on them. Its very hard when you are having to deal and rely on others time.

So for me the best way was to mainly use my wife Elaine who I spend my free time with and that I can carry my camera with me on locations to gain any shots as needed to complete the exercises and the final assignment.

In this first assignment I used my Sony A7 MK2 mirror-less camera. This is the first time I have used mirror-less for the whole course and have since sold all my expensive Canon gear, including the Canon 5DMK3, all L series lenses and accessories. I am so impressed with mirror-less that I doubt I would go back to the heavy mirror type camera. More on my move to mirror-less in a separate blog.

During the course I spent a lot of time looking at work of pro photographers such as Joe McNally, Jason Lanier and Jerry Ghionis to mention a few. I will add my readings to this blog separately.

Assignment One: A Portrait.

All images shot on Sony A7MK2 with Zeiss or Sony lenses. Click on any image to view a larger image:


For this image of Elaine we had been out for dinner at a nearby golf course with restaurants and a lovely lake setting. After dinner we went over to the side of the lake to get some images as the sun was setting. For this shot I wanted part of the palm tree bark in the shot for added texture, and the lake in the background. I had Elaine adopt a number of different poses and decided on this one as the best from around 30 shots. I was using the Sony A7 with a prime Zeiss F2.8 35mm lens. In my left hand I was holding a Phottix Odin flash unit up slightly higher than Elaines head, and this was been fired wireless by means of an Odin trigger unit on the Sony. I adjusted the flash as required so not to make it so over powering and to bring some fill light as the sun was almost set. I post processed in Lightroom CC 2015. Camera settings : Manual to adjust the ambient light with flash, 1/320th sec, F2.8 ISO 100 35mm Zeiss FE 35mm prime. Fill in flash, hand held with Odin wireless trigger system.


This image was taken while Elaine was getting ready for work. We had recently moved villa and in the main ensuite bathroom was a large mirror which I thought would work well in using as the main framing and one of a reflection, and secondly in using the lighting in the mirror as its main source. No flash was used. Being careful not to appear in any reflection of the mirror I stood back near the main bathroom door at an angle and shot around 20 images of various exposures and framing. Elaine was already set for work so I had her use some lipstick and pose for the shot. Processed in Lightroom CC 2015. Manual @1/50th sec, F1.8. 55mm, ISO 100 Zeiss 55mm F1.8A prime.


“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” – Paul Caponigro. Taking this famous quote into my own work I wanted to ensure I had at least one image depicting Elaine of ‘who she is’. As her pastime is road cycling I thought it would help show her chosen sport and competitive attitude. We are both on the bikes most weekends but the situation has never produced itself for a good photo opportunity, either because other riders are with us and ready to move on the track or the sun is too low or its pure night. So I went for the option of taking some images while Elaine was using the indoor trainer at home. I had two Phottix flash units set up on each side with large soft box diffusers, one was a medium size and the other to the right of the image was a large 80×60 soft box. Both flash units had three phases of diffusion, one on the flash head, a mid diffuser half into the cover and an outer cover cloth. I was looking for a low key shot.

Elaine was riding using some software which shows on the TV and rides against other real world riders anywhere in the world. So while Elaine was working hard in an actual race I moved around trying to get an image of effort and physical hard work cycling requires. This image was taken with me looking upwards from a kneeling position. I adjusted the flash and camera settings to reduce background light thus focusing on Elaine. Processing in Lightroom CC 2105. Manual @ 1/10th sec, F3.2, 55mm, ISO 100 Zeiss 55mm F1.8A prime. Two Phottix flash units with medium and large diffusers. Main flash set at approx. 1/64th power and second set at 1/128th power. Odin wireless trigger.


This was my ‘high key’ shot. Taken early morning I had Elaine look out the window which was East facing with sunlight flowing into the main lounge. I wanted to be careful not to cut any joints off mid way, which is something you should never do in portraits or people photography. The next issue was to have Elaine strike some poses which looked as natural as possible. The highlights on the left side of the face are as close as I wanted before they would appear burnt out, but with enough wrap around fill light to highlight the right cheek and not cast a shadow. The vertical blinds added good diffusion in the overall image. Lightroom CC 2015 and Photoshop CC 2015 to remove a plant leaf in the background which was a distraction. Manual 1/500th sec, F2.8, ISO 100 55mm, Zeiss 55mm F1.8 prime lens.



In the last image of the set, I wanted to portray Elaine in her business role. As head of over 58 hotels worldwide I wanted a corporate studio type portrait. I was going to try and take this image with some kind of background but the head regional offices would have caused too much disruption to the rest of the corporate dept. I set the studio lights up in the front lounge in bright daylight and set the camera to manual. I set the camera so the background would be totally dark, and set each Phottix soft box to Elaine 90 degree left of image as a main light, and the second smaller soft box to the right of image as a fill light. I asked Elaine to vary the poses from looking into the soft box to the left of image and looking up and away from the camera. I found this image to be the best from around 35 images taken. I had to be careful that the highlights would not reflect too much on her cheeks due to wearing skin moisturiser. Camera set to manual, 1/4000th sec (flash high speed sync) F4. 138mm. ISO 800. Sony Fe 70-200 F4 OSS zoom lens. two Phottix Odin flash units with Phottix soft boxes. Wireless Odin trigger system.

Comparison with assessment criteria.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills.

In this first assignment for Portraits I felt I have tried to cover more than one aspect of lighting techniques to add variety to each of the submitted images. I have thought about how I can make each image unique in its own right while at the same time trying to bring out some part of the subjects character.

Lighting was arranged to bring out affects for low to high key portraits, in addition to camera skills and settings to compliment the use of natural, artificial, indoor and studio lighting.

Quality of outcome.

I am happy with the quality of the final selection of images in general. I would have liked to add one or two more images which I had ideas for, but the major delays in the assignment means I need to move on and reflect on my delays and find ways to gain on lost time. However for this assignment I think the images are of relative good quality due to the equipment used and my fairly good working knowledge of Lightroom for the post processing, without the post effects being too obvious.

Demonstration of creativity.

I wanted to remain clear of any other images or ideas other students have submitted for the is assignment. Therefore any images I came across where crossed of my ‘to do list’ and new ideas sought. Some images such as the corporate portrait are hard not to copy as this is a common setting. But as mentioned I would have liked a setting to give more indication of the surroundings of Elaine’s office environment. I have used lighting to try and create the frame and atmosphere rather than rely simply on regular lighting.


Under each image I have described my thought process firstly for taking the image, then the technical side of how the image was set up, with a final short explanation on my camera and flash settings where used. Within this context is a brief outline of what I am trying the achieve in the final photograph, leaving the viewer with the choice to agree that I have achieved that outcome, or they have their own personal views to the selected images. I have read many blogs and followed other portrait photographers which I have yet to update on my learning log.

Onto Part 2 in People and Place which is ‘People Unaware’.