Exercise 8 – Varying the pose

In the this exercise, Varying the pose, we are asked to take one subject and adopt various poses that would normally been seen as classic poses. This would include variations in hand, head, mid and whole body positions.

These poses would be different for male and female subjects, and once again I have Elaine to ask as my personal model for the shots below. Certain poses will command attention from the viewer, such as when the subject is looking directly at the camera lens, or to give a more detached affect the subject maybe looking away out of frame almost as if they are nota aware the camera is even there.

I took the following shots early in the morning using natural light coming from a window, I used the chair and the wall as props, and to help give some weight to the images.

All images are taken on a Sony A7R with a Zeiss prime 55mm F1.8.

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I have asked Elaine to form a natural pose and look away from the camera. The blinds on the window are slightly closed to give some lines of light so as to not make the image too flat. I have asked Elaine to place her hands in a relaxed position.

{62]

This image now includes a three quarter shot to include the legs. Using the chair again as in the above image, this time I have Elaine looking away from the window at 90 degrees while her body is front lit. Hands again are in a relaxed form. I’m taking care not to get too close to the subject as in this image the nearest hand would become enlarged.

[63]

We now have Elaine looking directly at the camera. This demands attention form the viewer and creates eye contact. I noticed later that Elaine is wearing her expensive watch and her hand position could almost be used to promote the watch, with a few slight adjustments to bring the wrist closer to the camera. I have leaned down slightly to bring the camera lens to eye level of Elaine and asked Elaine to lean into the frame.

[64]

Almost the same image as the one above [63] but I have the subject now place her head to one side. I think this image gives a little more of a relaxed feel to the one above.

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Moving on to whole body shots, I had done some research and come across images where the subject is just leaning against the wall. I used the wall at home but left in the chest and lights as props. I had Elaine look at the camera and fold her arms, while having a relaxed stance.

[66]

Another full body shot, this time Elaine is looking away from the camera towards the window. This is helping to remove any shadows on the left side of her face so this could be used with more processing in post as a high key shot. I had Elaine change her hands and placed them in her pockets giving a relaxed feel to the shot.

[67]

This final image is again next to the wall, but the change is both in the half body crop and hand position. Im having Elaine look towards the lens to once again have the attention of the viewer, and the crossed arms gives a slightly more business like look, as if she is the CEO of a company. The white wall is acting as a reflector on the right side of her face which is bringing back the highlights which would otherwise be too dark.

Conclusion:

I think this exercise shows how important body position and hand position are in the image, depending on what the photographer wishes to achieve. Hand position is very important and as is the position of the camera, especially when the camera is getting close to the subject which could enlarge the nearest hand making it look out of shape. Moving the camera up or down to bring the lens to eye level is also important. If these were images of children for example it would almost certainly all be taken from eye level of the child.

Time permitting the type of clothes would also change the feel of the image drastically. I was going to have the subject wear a suit and have some type of business feel to the images, but I decided to go for a slightly less formal look.

 

 

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Exercise 7 – Focal Length

For this particular exercise we are to look at the difference that focal length would have on a portrait. Normally the best focal length to use is something around the 50mm (full frame) or 35mm if using a crop sensor. A wide angle is not normally recommended due to the unpleasing distortion effect it has on the subjects face.

Some pro photographers often opt for an even longer focal length to 50mm such as 105mm or even 210mm. Scott Kelby often gives demonstrations on many of his blogs and videos using a 210mm Nikon (now Canon) F2.8 lens for portraits.

I took these images on my Sony A6000 which is a crop sensor, so any focal length mentioned can be multiplied by 1.6. All images where taken in AV mode at f5.6. I used a 16-50mm and 70-210 zoom both made by Sony.

NOTE: My wife was about to leave for the airport so the lighting and composition is far from best, but due to delays in my assignment I need to move on.

 

[53]

16mm

 

This first image of Elaine was taken at 16mm or 25mm full frame. You can clearly see the face is a little distorted and not giving a very pleasing look. Due to the wide angle its also very hard to gain any depth of field as can be seen by the light in the background.

[54]

24mm

In this next image the focal length is 24mm crop or 38mm full frame. Slightly more depth of field than the first image, but still not enough for a good separation between subject and background. The face and body now looks a little more natural.

[55]

36mm

At 36mm crop and an equivalent of 57mm on a full frame this is a much better image and close to a look we would see by the naked eye. 50mm is the normal length most cameras use to best capture the natural look.

[56]

50mm

Its harder now to see any real difference between this image taken at 50mm crop or 80mm full frame. The 80mm is a common choice for medium format lenses as used by Phase One or Mamiya.

[57]

70mm

At 70mm or 110mm equal to full frame, this is now more in the telephoto category than using a medium prime lens. The advantage with using such a lens is greater DOP, and one important point is the photographer is able to stand further away from the subject which makes the person feel at ease with no lens or camera close in on the face. The overall image still looks very natural.

[58]

100mm

Using now a longer telephoto, this image is at 100mm or 160mm. Again when comparing to the other three images above its hard to make out any real change apart from a better DOP.

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135mm

For this shot I had to actually change position as I had ran out of room in order to keep the composition the same. This is at 135mm crop which is 216mm. Although this image has no interesting background, if shot outside the image would have nice fall off due to a wide aperture and longer lens.

[60]

210mm

This last image was taken at a focal length of 210mm in crop sensor, or that would be 335mm on a  full frame 35mm camera. I would tend to maybe use a little less focal length given the choice, but if outside shooting subjects hard to get to such as at a sporting event then this would be a good choice for bringing the subject closer.

Conclusion:

Using various focal length lenses as above certainly shows how they can be used to give to same effect while simply moving further away. A medium tele-photo lens is good to give a working distance between photographer and subject, which is ideal for making the subject feel more at ease. It also allows the photographer space to move around and compress the background if needed.

The wide angle lens is not really an option for portraiture. This lens leads to too much distortion of the face and anything which is close to the lens, such as hands or feet. The best option would be any focal length lens ranging from 50mm up to around 200mm for best results.

Exercise 6 – Review a portrait sequence

This exercise is intended to see how we communicate and interact with a subject in a portrait sequence. We are to set up a portrait session in a formal, structured way, in order to have a consistent setting and framing, according to the OCA notes.

In addition it will be very useful to use a tripod, in order to concentrate more on the situation, and so that the only variable between the series of pictures will be the expressions and gestures of the subject. Im not sure if I will take this route, as I think I would feel more at ease for both myself and the subject if I am moving around.

This on-the-spot assessment will affect the photography in the way I talk to and direct my subject, and in the moments I choose to make each exposure; it will also affect the way I review and edit the sequence of images on the computer.
Immediately after the shooting, I am supposed to write down the frame by frame progress of my subject’s expression, noting which I felt at the time were the best. At what point did I decide that it was time to stop shooting, and why?
Next, I am requested to open the sequence of images in my browser and review the images a second time. Rate them as follows: a) not good, b) acceptable, c) good and d) the best single shot, according to my judgement. How, if at all, did this later review differ from the way I saw it at the time of shooting?

I set up a formal portrait with my wife and decided to have her use a tablet as part of a prop, and to help her relax rather than simply staring at the camera. I did not use a tripod which added to a relaxed session than having the images all the same and making the session too static with the framing. I did try to keep the overall framing close without too much variation however.

I will mark the images with a star rating from 1 to 3 stars, and my final favourite image.

(click on any image to enlarge)

[32]

Rating *** – I like the pose of Elaine in this image. Although she is holding a tablet, her eye contact with the camera allows the viewer to look directly at the subject, then view around the rest of the frame and back to the eyes of Elaine. The soft focus allows the background and couch area not to distract too much from Elaine.

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Rating * – I like the photo but I feel I could have made a better image with elaines body position. I think the shoulders should be turned a little more to the camera, as this pose makes her look a little too slim. I like the expression so this would be a better image if I were to crop closer to the face making a head and shoulder shot. You should never crop at the joints also which is very close on the bottom right wrist, so this crop should be a little higher.

[34]

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Rating * – At first I thought this image would turn out good, but looking at the finished product I think the soft bean bag on the right is too distracting, and that there is a little too much dead space. It would be hard to get a full body shot without adding all these extras, so to make this work a three quarter or head and shoulder shot would work better. I do like the facial expression.

[35]

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Rating ** – Another image similar to no [34], but now with Elaine looking direct at the camera. Still issues with the background but the direct eye contact makes for a more pleasing image, and draws the viewer to Elaine’s face.

[36]

5

Rating * – For this image I made a slight crop on the top of the head, just to bring to focus inwards and crop the background. I brought the camera position down slightly below eye level. I would have preferred the light to be a little more contrasty for this image.

[37]

6

Rating ** – I like the formal pose of this image with Elaine resting her cheek on the hand. It would make a better image I feel if it was cropped closer, but I didn’t want to do this for the purpose of this exercise. I like the lighting a little better here then some of the other images. I’ve added a slight vignette on the edges of the image.

[38]

7

Rating *** – I like this image as it makes the viewer wonder what Elaine is thinking about, or looking at as she stares slightly off camera. I am not totally sure if the hand placement could be better, but for me I like the overall look and framing of the picture. One of my favourite images of the set.

[39]

8

Rating ** – A slight variation on the above image, but now looking at camera. Moving my position down brings the camera to the same level as the face, and composing to bring the eyes on the top left rule of thirds.

[40]

9

Rating * – At the time of taking this image I thought the composition was fairly good, but after looking at this image I feel as If I am too far away form Elaine, as her head is situated way back in the image. I was careful not to get too close to the feet with a wide angle lens, so I zoomed in and set myself back. However I feel that her feet are more part of the image than Elaines face and too much of the chair visible. Not what I felt at the time of taking the shot.

[41]

10

Rating * – Similar to the above image [40], I had Eliane this time look away from the camera, but too much of the image is about the chair and legs, with little of the face filling the frame. I think this would work better if I was to crop inwards to at least the bottom of the knees.

[42]

11

Rating ** – This time cropping in closer to Elaine with a similar framing to the two images above, I like the position and framing of the face with Elaine looking out the window. But a little too much of the chair is in the frame. I could improve the image with a closer crop. At the time of shooting I liked the fact Elaine is looking out of the window with the window light filling the frame.

[43]

12

Rating *** – A little better cropping with the concentration more on the upper body of the subject. I like the fact the dark area of her trousers brings a natural vignette into the image allowing the eyes to be directed to the eyes and face.

[44]

13

Rating * – To add some variation the the photo set, I had Elaine stand near the window and place her hands in her pocket for a slightly more formal feel. I had her tilt back slightly to arch her back and face the camera in a three quarter pose. At the time I thought the shot worked, but after looking at the image I am not sure I like the overall posing. I also feel the shot could be improved with less dead space to the right of Elaine. I cropped close to the top of the head.

[45]

14

Rating ** – I like this shot more than [44] above due to the close cropping making a pleasing head and shoulder shot. Natural window light allows light features on the left side of the image with a nice fall off of light and shadow on the right of the image. I’m always careful not to crop at the joints on hands, arms and legs.

[46]

15

Rating * – Overall I like this image, but the background on reflection is a bit bland, and to be honest not out of focus quite enough. Maybe if the background was a little more interesting it would improve the image, or if I was to use off camera flash I could darken the background. I like the light falling on the face but the highlights are a little too bright even after post processing. Not sure if I like the hands in the pockets which at the time I thought looked OK.

[47]

16

Rating ** – For this image I had Elaine use a prop, in the is case a small tablet computer. Although you cannot see the tab in the image, I wanted to take away to distraction of the camera for the subject while I shot a series of images. I do have other images with the tab in the frame but wanted to see how it would look without. I tilted the camera slightly to add a little more of a vertical to fill the frame to the top right.

[48]

17

Rating ** – For me I really like the expression on Elaines face, as if she is talking to someone. I like the feel of the image but would like the background to be in an office surround.

[49]

18

Rating *** – I like this image as one of my favourites. The frame is full due to the titling of the camera and adds a better dimension rather than being just straight. I had Elaine  lookup towards the window light.

[50]

19

Rating *** – This would be my second overall favourite in the set of images. Although Elaine is using the tab as a prop, I like the smile towards the camera and the way she is seated with a straight back, and leaning towards the camera. The eye contact with the camera lens demands attention. At the time of shooting I didn’t feel as this would become one of my favourite images.

[51]

Best

Rating *** Favorite Image. I feel that this is my best image from the whole set. I like the expression and the close up camera angle and cropping to three quarters. The background is sufficiently out of focus and the window light has exposed the side of the face and wrapped around the shadow side enough not to be too dark.

Lightroom screen shot:

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Conclusion:

I’m finding the whole section of the is OCA course very hard due to limited time and finding various subject matter. However I enjoyed this exercise and using the window light with no additional fill flash or reflectors was a challenge. It gave me the opportunity to pose the subject in many ways as I had to submit at least 20 images. At first this didn’t seem an issue but you soon find you are running out of options after about 10 or so poses.

I have been reading and watching a lot on posing from wedding photography and using off camera flash. I have just changed my camera system to Sony mirror-less and I’m waiting for the new flash units to arrive. I’ll do another separate blog on this in due course.

I would have liked to have done this exercise in an office surround but due to time I had to get the exercise finished so I can move on. Elaine did like a lot of the images and it has allowed me to now take some more formal images for Elaine for office use, and it may lead to more work for her office staff which I would look forward too. I can’t wait to get the new flash units for the Sony A7 and start to get my flash off camera to get more dramatic results. I decided to have all images in B&W to take away any distractions from colour.

Exercise 5 – Eye contact and expression

This exercise requires the students to take series of images which include and show eye contact, and how this can effects the interaction between the viewer and what we think the subject is thinking especially when looking outside the frame.

This was a hard exercise for me, mainly because over the last four exercises I have only used one subject which has been my wife. Timing is everything and I never seem to be able to get hold of a new subject (person) when I am available due to work. However on this weekday afternoon I got to capture some images of a friend who works at a motorcycle shop.

I placed Maroune near the window in a chair so natural light was coming from the window. I thought about using some fill flash but decided the natural light was enough to fill the shadows. The tricky bit would be as Maroune has tanned skin I would need to ensure I overexposure by half a stop otherwise he would come out too dark, especially with the lighter background i was using.

Eye contact is really everything in a portrait, and I learnt a long time ago if the eye closest to the image is not in focus you can forget the shot. I had my subject sit in a chair and ordered him to make various poses for the camera. I also made sure the camera was on multiple exposure as shots like this are bound to turn out with some images taken when the subject is blinking. I moved around so not to feel too static and talked to the subject all the time so they couldn’t think too long about having a camera pointed at them.

I asked my subject to look away from camera and directly into the lens to give various poses and keep them busy and mind off the camera. I also asked him to make a few different faces, but this turned out to be too false, so I made him laugh and waited for the time he had more natural facial expressions.

Images taken on Sony A7 (click on any image to enlarge)

[22]

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For this first image I had Maroune sit on a chair and look away from the camera while having his shoulders slightly facing away, thereby not having him too square to the camera. Questions could be asked as to what is he looking at, or is he talking to someone just out of frame for example.

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This image shows the subject looking straight into he camera lens. Now the attention is is directly with the view looking a the picture, almost as if he wants or has your attention and you are in a one to one conversation.

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A natural expression makes the viewer and certainly the subject feel as ease. The sale was created just by talking to the subject while shooting multiple shots to make sure the eyes were not caught closed. Again the subject could be smiling at something or someone which makes the viewer ask questions.

[25]

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For this image I asked Maroune sit in a chair and look at emails on his phone. I kept the phone out of the image so to concentrate the viewer on the face. I cropped closer and just down on the top of the head as this seems to be a good way to bring the focus onto the subjects eyes and face.

[26]

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Again while sat in the chair, I took a sidewards profile picture. Not a really good example or flattering type of shot, and a bit more like a prison mug shot to be fair if it was not for the arm showing. However the eyes are looking away (at something) which makes the viewer ask questions.

[27]

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Another position while in the chair shows the subject turning away and looking over the shoulder, as if disturbed from doing something more important, such as office work or another task. I could have had the subject look away but I thought this again called for attention of the viewer to make direct eye contact.

[28]

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I thought this was a cheeky expression, or one of possible amazement or surprise. Very subjective depending on how you look at it.

[29]

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For this image I wanted to add a prop to show some form of action, or an act of doing something other than looking at or away from the camera. The background although purposely out of focus gives clues as to the type of work Maroune does, which is a motorcycle machanic and saleman.

[30]

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Taken form the same position as the previous photo, this image shows the subject in deep thought. Is he thinking about what stock needs to be ordered, or what to do over the coming weekend?

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I decided to make this final shot in B&W to take away the coloured background and bright colours from his t-shirt. The image now focuses only the subjects face and what he could be thinking of.

Conclusion:

This exercise was fairly hard in terms of getting to sit with a subject. I had no choice but to do this while Maroune was at work and I managed to move around quickly without too much disruption to his workload.

The expressions and eye contact say everything about the images and although the body position can change, the eyes really do say it all. Some points to remember while taking images of people and portraits are:

  • Focus on the eyes. Make sure the nearest eye is pin sharp.
  • Have or make a relationship with your subject.
  • Make or help them relax.
  • Vary the body position when possible.
  • Wait for natural expressions to appear and be ready for them.
  • Use a medium tele-photo lens to keep the image natural without distorting and this is also less intrusive.
  • Watch your background, it can make or break the image.

I now intend to research such famous portrait photographers such as Steve McCurry, Lee Jeffries, Joe McNally, Rehahn, David Lazar and others to educate myself more in facial expressions and composition. Personal reviews of such famous photographers to follow.

 

Exercise 4 – An active portrait

For this exercise I am to take an active portrait. I took my camera with me for one of the road cycle training sessions my wife was doing and while she was preparing I moved around taking shots from full length to close up.

My wife does not feel so comfortable with having a set photo session so this helped her concentrate on her activity while could take pictures without making her feel uneasy.

I decided to make shots based on a sequence of events, from preparation to the actual training ride. After post processing I liked both colour and B&W images so I have included both for this exercise.

(click on any image to enlarge)

[16]

For the first preparation shot it was fairly easy to show Elaine with the bike and the surroundings. I didn’t want Elaine looking straight at the camera so I asked her to look away as if she is waiting for others to arrive. I cropped in slightly removing the bottom area of the bike which I didn’t feel was relevant, thus allowing a closer look at the face and upper body.

[17]

Cropping close to the face and hands, we can see part of the preparation showing the type of equipment needed, both in the helmet and the gloves. Also the cycle shirt shows how important sponsorship is in sports. I used B&W for this one to add impact and remove any colour distractions, but this possibly would not be used for a sponsor shot as brand colours would be important.

[18]

One important aspect of cycling is having the correct food for energy and repair kits in the event of a tyre puncture. I was going to have some of the tools and food placed on the floor but it looked too false. I finally went for a close up shot of Elaine checking her cycle case which carries this equipment while making a close crop with an intentional crop of the top of the head and helmet. I feel this brings the eye closer into the face. The hands and face are placed on the rule of thirds.

[19]

One final pose shot for the camera. I wasn’t sure of the background but in the desert it was a dull day with no sky or colours, so I used the back of the car to form a box and also give a sense of support for her bike carrying all the equipment. I kept part of the bike in frame so the viewer would know what type of sport the picture depicts.

[20]

Ready for go. A shot showing all set for the road. I had Elaine place her foot in the pedals to show a feeling of the starting the ride. I didn’t like the sky as I mentioned in the last photo, but I needed to show an overall shot with the bike. I converted to B&W to help bring out the darker tones of the outfit and bike against the white and grey background.

[21]

I waited for Elaine to come around the circuit which in this case was 8KM. Elaine did four total circuits in total and as I was riding with her I stopped one circuit early to grab my camera again and get into position for her final passing leg. I panned the camera and waited for her to come around the corner. I opted for a slight sepia toned image as the B&W was a little too harsh and cropped the image to follow the showdown on the ground leading into the frame. Not ideal but I thought the power lines in the background broke up the sky a little.

Conclusion:

This was a fun exercise and one I find easy to work on, due to the fact the subject in the frame can carry on without too much thought of them having their photo taken. I would have liked better light but on the day I had available I had to work with what I had. In the future I would try again but with of camera speed lights and expose for the subject and darken the background.

 

Exercise 3 – Experimenting with light

This exercise requires me to take four to six portraits of the same subject using different lighting effects. The images should be head and shoulder and if needed one of the images can be flash or studio lighting. We should use a fairly basic none distracting background where possible.

I decided to use my wife as the subject as it was much easier to travel around together and take images spaced over a two or three day period, mainly due to our work commitments and to add different clothing choices.

I decided to use natural lighting for the four images, but this could be almost endless with the options we have to use both natural and artificial lighting.

(click on any image to enlarge)

[12]

This image was taken in our garden, while Elaine sat under some shade reading a book. The lighting was fairly direct and bright and taken in the mid day sun, but due to the canvas covering overhead the lighting has produced a soft overall pleasing effect with soft shadows. No reflector was used but I could have been added just under the chin out of sight to help bring the shadow area out a little more for the eye line.

[13]

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Here is an example of strong side lighting, still using natural light. I had Elaine stand fairly close to the window in the kitchen with a basic background to complement the composition. We can see the harder light area on the window side with a quick fall off of light on the right side of the image. I held a small reflector to help bring some of the light back onto the neck and hairline in the 1 o clock position.

[14]

Taken at night at a fun fair, this is an example of artificial light which is giving a strong colour cast. I didn’t remove the colour cast as the whole point is to see how the artificial light effects the skin tones. No reflector was used and the lights are situated above and to both side of Elaine’s face.

[15]

This image was taken close to a window with natural light, but the blinds were closed to help spread the light. Strong window light from the mid d ay sun is coming through the window, as can be seen be the light falling off in the rear of the image on the left shoulder and couch area. I think the fall off helps to bring the eye back to the brightest area which is the face. Given the choice I would opt for more images with various positions of the hand and have Elaine looking into different parts of the frame.

Conclusion:

This was an interesting exercise and one I enjoyed to gain various effects of light and in different locations. I could have used the reflector more but wanted to try and use natural light as much as possible. I enjoyed adding images from different lighting sources from daylight and night.