Exercise 2.4 Same background, different model

The brief:

This exercise is essentially the same as the previous one, but instead of taking photographs of the same person, here you must make portraits of three different subjects, but keep the background to the image consistent… You could either select an interesting backdrop to use inside (studio) or perhaps select an interesting backdrop on location (street). Whichever you choose, try to be as creative as you can and be prepared to justify your decisions through your supporting notes. Again, present all three images together as a series and, in around 500 words, reflect upon how successful this exercise was in your learning log or blog.

I decided to shoot this exercise at work using some of my ever so patient colleagues as models. Thank you ladies! I really would be quite lost without your willingness to pose for me.

The location that I chose to shoot in has west facing windows, so was pleasantly lit with the afternoon sun. We have an old warehouse door that is hung on one wall facing the window as decoration and the door is lit by three spotlights that cast interesting shades on the old battered door. I chose to use the door as my background because of its visual interest and texture. I chose to shoot the door in such a way that the hinges and part of the wall would be present in order to provide the context that this is now a wall decoration. Because there was so much mixed lighting (natural, tungsten, fluorescent daylight and flash) I used an X-rite ColorChecker to ensure correct colour rendition and white balance.

I decided to use my flash for this exercise as I haven’t really used it since doing TAOP and am sorely in need of some practice. I found I had to use it to add more light to the scene anyway as the light was a little low, even with the spotlights and available window light. I had the flash off camera, willingly held by a voice-activated light stand (one of the models). I found that the lighting was a little hit and miss, sometimes half the image was bathed in shadow, the next perfectly lit. I’m not sure if this was due to the assistant moving slightly and changing the direction of the light or possibly batteries in the triggers being a little old and not firing quick enough.

I had the stances that Clare Strand’s subjects used in her Gone Astray portraits in mind for this shoot. I had each model try the same variety of poses: full frontal facing the camera; slight turn to the left and right with the head turned toward the camera; facing the door and looking back at the camera over their shoulders. I found that all the ladies adopted a fashion model type pose with the last mentioned pose so I eliminated those poses from my selection. I provided little direction apart from asking them to turn in a particular direction and not to smile. I think I probably directed the person holding the flash more.

All three of the ladies are dressed for our Canadian autumn weather. The rich red tones in the first lady’s tunic top contrasts well with the cool tones of the tin warehouse door in the background. She has an expression on her face that speaks of determination and sass. The second lady’s blue coat and pink scarf pick up on the bluish-gray tones of the door providing a very cool overall palette. She has a slightly unreadable expression on her face – sad/disappointed/tired maybe. The third lady’s face is radiant and glowing. One only has to look at her protective arm gesture to see why. The tones of her clothing bring about a certain neutrality to the image.

On the whole I am rather satisfied with the way the lighting worked. There are some hard shadows on the floor which I would have preferred to be softer, but I can live with that for now. In hindsight I should probably have remembered to take my reflector along and fire the flash through that instead. Next time I will remember. I think its time I hauled out my mannequin’s head and have a little flash practice session.

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