We’ve all seen them… mind-numbing, movement-stilling photos of people, either staring into the camera or away, a quiet and enigmatic expression on their face. The background is usually a white or dramatic black. Their faces may be entirely illuminated, or only partially lit.
Oh yes, we’re talking about portraits.
This week’s assignment was for a pair of classmates to take turns in the photo studio, making a portrait of each other.
In order for the portrait to be most effective, I had to learn more about my classmate. This way I would be able to properly convey her personality and character.
Luckily for me, I got an awesome and interesting classmate. Whitney is a senior at MU, almost finished with her double major: Journalism and Japanese. She studied abroad in Japan for a year. In her free time, she crochets.
This was the first time I had ever attempted to take a more journalistic portrait. I take portraits all time at work; but those are more of the web directory type.
I have little experience with lighting; only enough to make the year-book type mug shot I mentioned earlier.
After talking with Whitney and being exposed to her fun, friendly personality, I knew I wanted my multiple light source shot to be high key. I felt that the use of the brighter lighting would convey how quirky and amiable she was. Before attempting this portrait, I consulted Carrie our TA about how to pull it off.
With this knowledge, I was able to execute the portrait. The only change I made from Carrie’s suggestions was to use a beauty dish for the key lighting and use reflectors on the sides.
The only problem I think I made with my multi-light shot was the backdrop. Although I managed to keep almost evenly lit, there is a gradient at the top that I failed to notice until much later.
The single-light shot was another story. I love portraits in which the photographer can capture light behind the subject’s irises, therefore illuminating the eye. Whitney had very light blue eyes, and this was the effect I wanted to achieve. Although she is “fun,” Whitney can also be independent and driven—she did, after all, spend an entire year among a different people.
It took much fidgeting around with one gridded light and a reflector for me to get close to the results I was seeking. Even though I feel okay about the picture I made with this setup, I realize that it is flawed.
There is no catch light in her other eye. I’m not sure if this should be counted against the photo or not but I wish I could have managed it. The reflector did not illuminate the other side of her face quite as well as I wanted; I feel like her face fades into the black. I chose to use the gold reflector with the hope that it would reflect more light but I’m afraid the warm tint that accompanied the extra light clashes with the colder use of a grid.
Neither photo is even close to being perfect. I am sure that by the end of the course, I will look back at these two photos and be able to pick out a million other problems.
But, for my first try, I think I did all right.