Exercise: Portrait – Scale and Setting

This first exercise was a very useful refresher for differing approaches to portrait framing. I found a couple of the frames much more challenging to compose than the other two. I chose not to keep with the same composition and moved my subject and camera around the setting. I set out to capture the portraits all in one location, but decided that the first location wasn’t working for me. I therefore shot one portrait there and shot the other free later that day at a different location. Here are the results starting with the first cropped in on the face. I used the same subject for each image and used film for all of them.





This was the best of the selection of the close in cropped shots. I had the model facing the soft evening light which created some nice light around the cheek bones on the right side of her face, and strong shadows in the centre. I don’t really feel this was all that effective for this kind of shot. I used colour film on a 35mm camera for this shot, and converted to black and white in PS as the colours in the background were distracting too much from the subject’s face.


This was my favourite from the head and shoulders selection. I adjusted my position to the model’s left side so that her face would be positioned at more of an angle from the sun. I used black and white film on a 120 camera for this shot. The 120 camera is a 6×6 camera, so the square crop gives a different feel to the frame than the 35mm camera. It is a bit less busy, but I might have positioned the model slightly more to the left.



This was taken earlier that day (in the morning). I used a hallway with large windows for (what I hoped) soft window light. This is the torso shot and brings the hands and more of the body into play. It isn’t cropped at the waist as I didn’t like the effect cutting off the left arm had on the image. The legs and lower body aren’t really much of a factor as I lost most of the detail in the dress. This was also shot on black and white film on a 6×6 120 camera.


This full body shot returns to the second location. I cropped out the feet as I didn’t think they brought much else to the frame and I didn’t want to step back too far. One of the main problems for me in executing full body portraits is losing that “contact” with the model’s facial expressions, and it is sometimes hard to bring some impact back into the frame with an effective pose. For this I also used black and white film on a 6×6 120 camera.

So the pick of the sequence for me are certainly the head/shoulders and torso shots. The head and shoulders shot feels a more natural composition in contrast to the full body shot, which I feel is a bit wooden. Likewise the close up shot of the face is ineffective, partly from a technical side (lighting doesn’t quite hit it) and doesn’t feel quite as expressive as the two I have outlined as most effective. The torso shot is well balanced, the model is wearing a jet black dress which is complimented by the strong shadows in the frame especially on the background. The pose works, the mood created by the contrast calls for a stronger pose and the fact that she is looking out of the shot at something we can’t see cultivates a sense of mystery and ambiguity. The head and shoulders is very different however, the composition is safe but perhaps could have done with a few adjustments, but we are close enough to feel the model’s expression and connect with her looking straight down the lens.

This was the first exercise for me and I’m very much looking forward to the next ones in preparation for the assignment!

Exercise: Portrait – Scale and Setting

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