This assignment sees us having to work in a large group made up of members of our FD2 photography group and a group of make-up artists from a different (younger) year group. We were originally put into a group of four members from each group but quickly seemed to split up into two groups of four (2 photographers, 2 make-up artists). This worked well as the two photographers that went into their respective groups were thinking along the same lines as each other for their ideas. The make-up artists decided amongst themselves as to who would be better off in which group.

We, as photographers, are the clients who are to come up with the ideas whilst the make-up artists are the ones required to help us achieve what we want.

My Ideas

We are required to produce a studio portrait and a location portrait that are both done in our own styles. This is a bit of a struggle for me as I still feel I don’t have that much of a distinctive style (although I seem to be moving in a certain portrait/documentary direction).

Studio Portrait:

My location portrait is going to be a secondary consideration that will come about after I’ve shot my studio portrait. This is because I’m currently into shooting close-up portraits and I want to produce some to prove to myself that I can do it and do it well.

An initial shoot to try and get straight in my head what I want has been done. Two of the images I’ve had time to edit from the shoot have helped me get more of an idea of what I want:

Of the two, I definitely prefer the second one that’s shot in landscape view. Everything about it looks better in my opinion. For a start, I originally wanted a black backdrop as I imagined it would lend itself better to the dark theme I’m going for. As it happened, my model, Tom, had set up the dark-blue backdrop as the black one wasn’t on the roll of that studio. This has turned out to be a stroke of good fortune as I really like the subtle blue background effect that is in this landscape orientated shot. This is what I’ll be going with in the final piece.

Studio Shoot Done

The studio shoot proper has now been completed and I have some images that I quite like and will be comfortable submitting. After spending a little time with a couple of the images in Lightroom, I’m trying to decide between the following two versions to submit.

I’ve decided to call this body of work (the studio + location shoot) “In a Dark Place”.

I feel this title works as it describes both the visual look of the images as well as the emotional/psychological state of the subject’s mind. It’s almost like the subject of the images has given up and doesn’t care anymore. All he’s interested in is getting high to dull the pain of the dark place he’s in.

I think the reason I like these images so much is that they’ve turned out exactly as I had imagined them to look before doing the shoot. This, if I’m being honest, has never happened before for me.

The things I like about the image are:

  • The lighting has worked perfectly. I like how I’ve managed to separate the whole of the subject from the background, even though it’s a black hoodie on a black backdrop. The three-light setup has managed to separate the hood and the shoulders exactly as I wanted. One of my favourite bits of the images is the way the light falls on the front rim of the hood and separates it from both the background and the body of the model.
  • The way I’ve managed to get the key light into the hoodie and to fall on the model’s face well. The way the key light is hitting the model’s face hasn’t caused too bad of a shadow from his nose and it has created a line of shadow along his cheekbone and down his jawline that I like.
  • The expression on the model’s face is perfect. To me, it says, “I give up. I don’t care anymore. Do what you want”. The way he’s looking into the camera (as I wanted) is as if he’s talking to everyone, not just the person with the camera.
  • The make-up is exactly what I wanted. It’s nowhere near as extravagant as I’m sure many of the other student’s work will be but, it helps my narrative perfectly.
  • I even like how I’ve managed to get the model’s right eyebrow to not fall off into the shadow on that side of his face. The bit of light that falls onto his face between his eyebrow and the start of the shadow helps to complete the shape of his face.
  • The position of the hood is perfect as it is angled enough to let the right amount of light in but it’s also positioned so that the scab on his forehead shows in that light.
  • The composition works with the rule of thirds with the eyes being along the top horizontal and the mouth on the lower horizontal lines. The models left eye is on the top-right point of interest where the top horizontal and right vertical lines cross. The model is positioned off to the right of the image with the image being balanced by the hood on the left.
  • In post-edit, I used the adjustment brush in Lightroom on his eyes. This was to up the exposure on the pupil and iris only. I feel that this makes the image look nicer but also gives the viewer that little bit more connection with the subject.

I’m currently struggling to choose between the two compositions as I think the closer image is better for the viewer as it brings you closer to the subject and it, perhaps, more intense but, I prefer the not so close image because it shows more of the lighting I spent time on getting. For me as the person who’s created the image, I’d go with the less close shot but, the couple of people I’ve asked to choose between the two have both said they prefer the closer-in image.

As can, hopefully, be seen from the slightly different poses of the model, these aren’t the same image cropped differently. I did, in fact, use two different lenses to create these two different images. The less close-in shot was done on my Sigma 85mm ART lens and the closer-in image was done on my Sigma 105mm Macro lens. This had to be done as the 85mm lens couldn’t focus when positioned as close to the model as I needed it to be to create the image.

An issue I have with the close-in image is the depth-of-field. The eyes are clear and in-focus but the depth-of-field is already falling off by the time it gets to his chin due to the slight tilt of his head. His right eye is also not quite as in focus and sharp as his left eye which is positioned more forward and is the one I focused on.

I definitely need to get feedback on the two images to, hopefully, help me choose the better one for submission.

The images above are there to show who helped me work on the creation of my studio images and the arrangement of lighting. Basically, Emily did the make-up on my model, Tom, and I did the rest. Three lights were used to create the exact lighting I was after. The two rim lights were set to 1/4 power with strip softboxes while the key light was set to 1/16 power with a small octobox and positioned quite close to the model to make sure most of the light went where I wanted it to. The light you see in the image that was positioned to light the backdrop wasn’t used in the end as I went with creating a black background instead of having the nice blue. This was so because I decided it suited the narrative more.

The Location Shoot

After missing out on two Monday sessions due to other group members not being organised, I finally got my location shoot done. It’s actually worked out ok and I’m relatively happy with it considering I didn’t put much emphasis on this aspect of the assignment.

At first glance, the image could look garish and badly lit but, this is what I was going for and is why I used a speedlite without a softbox. All I had was one of the ‘last resort’ clip-on plastic diffusers.

I wanted the paparazzi, ‘caught-in-the-act’ look to this image. My whole narrative for this piece is that the subject has let me follow him around for a period of time documenting him and his habit. This, therefore, is my first attempt at documentary portrait photography, albeit using a model rather than a real drug user.

I think the flash does its job well with the harsh shadows and non-flattering light on the subject. My 7-year-old daughter looked at the image on my computer screen and said, “Wow, that looks creepy and scary”. That’ll do for me!

I think it could, perhaps, have looked better in black and white but, I really like the studio portrait in colour and so left this one in colour also. This, hopefully, allows the viewer to link the two together as a piece of work; the subject and make-up also help with that but having one black and white and one colour image wouldn’t have worked as a single body of work.

A Change of Tact

After I’d finally been able to get my location shot done, I decided it was time to sit down with Dave and show him what I’d done for this assignment. This was the right thing to do as he reinforced my belief that I was selecting the correct studio image and also helped me decide between the two I’d shortlisted for the location shot.

The two images I’ll be submitting are:

You’ll notice that the location image is the more natural-looking ‘documentary’ type and that both are now in black and white. The reason for the black and white is because it suited the location shot so much more than colour. I love the studio shot in both colour and black and white so thought it best to go this way.

When I printed them both off using the college printer, they came out too dark. To get around this I simply upped the exposure and tweaked the contrast in Lightroom. The prints have now come out nicely and I’m happy with what I’m submitting.

Evaluation

Overall, I think this assignment has been a success and I really like the studio portrait. The reason for this is that the lighting is exactly as I wanted it and I do rather like the finished image(s).

The location shoot was all very rushed due to me having to wait until the last session to get it done and the fact that it was a very cold day when the shoot was done. I would have liked to have had a lot more time out on location but the model and the other person who came along were getting on my nerves a bit. If I’d been able to shoot one or two weeks earlier on location, I think I would have gone out again with just the model to shoot. I would have tried to find a slightly more sheltered location too so that we’d have been more comfortable which would have enabled us to spend more time getting a wider variety of images to choose from.

The makeup artist I worked with was Emily and, to be honest, I thought she was very good. I’d definitely work with her again. Every time I put something into the Instagram chat group we’d set up and asked if it was something she could do, I got a “Yeah, no problem”. There was one time she couldn’t make it to a Monday session for my studio shoot and she did leave it until the actual day of the shoot to inform me but, things happen and she was very apologetic. What I did like about her work ethic was that she then came in on the Thursday of that week instead to help me get my shot done. This session wasn’t one that her group had on their schedules to come to us so I’m very grateful to her for doing that.

All-in-all, there were a few hiccups and I got annoyed about the fact that two of our Monday sessions were wasted due to a certain person in the group scheduling shoots and not turning up but, we got there in the end. I do feel that I could have done a better location shoot had I had more time, and that’s bugging me a little.

Now that I’m submitting in black and white, I’d have to say that I think the studio shot is the best piece of work I’ve produced since being on this degree course. It’s a shot that I’ve been able to reproduce perfectly to the idea I had in my head at the start of the process. I love the lighting, the makeup and the expression on the model’s face. Everything has come together perfectly for this one final image.