Monday, 23 April 2012

Review a portrait sequence

As I reviewed the portrait sequence for ‘review a portrait sequence’ immediately afterwards I remembered the checklist and thought I had got a good balance for lighting and the general (simple) composition. This then allowed me to concentrate on the person and her expressions.

   I tried to vary the directions she was looking and the expressions she made by asking her to explain different parts of her garden, which was where we had agreed to do the portrait sequence. For the first three shots I asked her to not look at the camera, wanting to start off by experimenting with my subject looking away from the camera. This was because I felt it would look more natural and so in the time between the ‘looking away’ portraits and the ‘looking at’ portraits, my subject would have overcome any nerves she might be feeling. However, she was more relaxed than I had expected and by the fifth photograph I asked her to look straight at the camera. This was partly because in the fourth photograph she accidentally looked almost straight at the camera, which I thought looked quite flattering anyway.

   I then decided to bring another factor into play, namely the addition of her hand(s) through photos 7-9. This was to add something different that would have an effect on her expressions, as I had previously found out with the ‘portrait- scale and setting’ exercise. As she was preparing to and started to explain something about the garden I took a few shots, with her hand(s) prominent as well as the face. I did this for three frames. I remembered seeing the different hand position had an effect on her expression, although not as substantial an effect as I had hoped. However I liked 9 best out of those three at the time as she was clearly right in the middle of explaining something.

   The conversation then changed to something else about a plant in the garden in particular and I started photographing as her expression changed. From frames 10-17 she was explaining to me in more detail how the plant grew while I captured the different expressions. I remembered this being the part of the shoot where I captured subtly different head positions but where the difference in the perceived expression was comparatively large.

   For four more frames I tried to get natural shots of her talking, which I thought at the time were all sufficiently different to capture. I thought that these four were very natural and at this time she was completely comfortable with being photographed.

   Finally for the last 8 frames I decided to experiment with head and shoulder variations. This included her looking slightly to the side, looking somewhere completely elsewhere than the camera, shoulders turned slightly and her smiling. It was at this time I decided to stop shooting because I felt quite a few nuances of expression had been explored and I thought the time elapsed was long enough for it to become a bit uncomfortable if I had continued photographing any longer.

Reviewing the portrait sequence a second time, after looking at them properly, I saw that there were quite a few I liked but also quite a few that were similar. I was surprised to see one of my favorite photographs out of all of the sequence was the first. I thought it looked extremely natural, which I wasn’t expecting. I therefore rated the first photograph as good. I thought with the second photograph she looked more apprehensive and less natural than the first one, which I found strange so I gave it a not good rating. The third was much more acceptable as any nerves she might have been feeling were dissipated by being in the process of explaining something. The fourth and fifth photos were not good for me because the expressions were (accidentally) portrayed as maybe mild anguish, while in fact they were only her explaining something. Photograph 6 in the sequence was only acceptable, I felt, because although it was natural, the parted mouth was captured at slightly the wrong moment. Number 7 was similar in this regard so acceptable but I managed to rectify this in 8, which I rated as good; she was looking upwards more while in thought. In retrospect I didn’t like 9 as much as I thought the first time of reviewing and only felt it was acceptable. This was because although the hand helped to show she was conveying something well, I felt the eyes weren’t prominent enough to get across the expression to the viewer of the photograph. 

I rated 10 as good as she was clearly making a point (that was captured in the photograph) even without a hand raised. Number 11 was not so good for the subtle reason of her head being placed too centrally to the camera, which while making a point, I felt, looked unsatisfactory. Her hand was raised again in photograph 12 as she made another explanatory point but I thought her hand took up too much space in the photo, which made the photo only acceptable, not good. I was a bit disappointed with 13 because I caught her smile at slightly the wrong moment although I would still rate it as acceptable. This is because the smile was still recognizable as a smile. I quite liked 14 and rated it as good, mostly because it was very natural. However, the mouth was open maybe a tiny bit too much for it to be a really attractive photograph for me.

   On the other hand I disliked 15 a lot because the eyes were inexpressive as they were too screwed-up and the mouth was open too much so I rated it as not good. Number 16 was better, although I felt on a second look that a raised hand would have helped to convey to the viewer that she was explaining something. I rated 17 as not good because although her mouth and angle of the head were very good, the eyes were looking straight at the camera, which had the adverse effect of slight hostility, I felt. This was in combination to the angle of the head. My view remained the same as before in that the changes in expression were subtle in these few photographs (13-17) but large in resultant effect on the viewer.

   Numbers 18-22 were all good for me, with the body communicating ease and head showing alertness. I was quite satisfied with 23 but I thought maybe I had asked her to look upwards a little too high so I rated it as good only. Number 24 I found very soft and even peaceful and rated it good, mainly because of the face being tilted to profile. I thought 25 was pretty as the whole body communicated relaxedness so I rated it as good. I was not very keen on 26 as I viewed it a second time as it looked too posed for my tastes.

   Number 27 however, was my favorite shot of all for the opposite reason of the subject looking so natural and unconcerned. I thought the slight smile added something extra to the photograph and was complemented with the face being profile to the camera. The number 28 photograph was natural and attractive too but I thought the body and head were facing a bit too centrally so I rated it as good. Lastly, with 29 I thought was only acceptable as the smile was a little too full with the face and body similar to 28; too central.

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