Tasked with the brief ‘Instant Portrait’ we were instructed to capture two portraits of one our fellow classmates. We first discussed what we thought defined a portrait, what it is and what it told about it’s subjects. In discussion we decided a portrait could be many things and does not have to follow a strict set of rules, as perhaps one might imagine. For example, a photo of a boxer’s hands constitutes as a portrait as it shows what he does, his hands are a defining part of his identity. Portraits also do not have to always flatter the subject, discussing the depths to what a portrait can be defined as has been encouraging. After discussions we set out to create two photos that showed our subjects 1) favourite colour and 2) what they enjoy doing.
My subject, Suzanne, enjoys reading and likes the colour blue, so I set out scoping the school for a suitable location to shoot. I searched for a location that suits my subject, whilst also taking into consideration; lighting, background and incorporating her favourite colour.
Suzanne likes to read and her favourite colour is blue.
In my first shot I decided to shoot outside, it was a cloudy yet bright day, which produced soft, flat lighting that I identified would be flattering for a portrait (no harsh shadows created by sunlight). I positioned Suzanne under a tree next to a patch of bluebells and decided to get a photo of her reading with the blue flowers surrounding her, thus fulfilling the brief. Of the two images I produced I believe this is the strongest, I experimented with different angles, portrait and landscape formats and having her look at the camera and the book. I believe this is successful because it has a fairly strong composition. Suzanne is crisp and in focus and we are drawn at first to her face and then our eye travels to the rest of her body and finally toward the flowers in the foreground. The depth of field works so that both the background and foreground is soft and out of focus, allowing Suzanne to be the focal point of the image. I think she looks relaxed and as if she has truly been caught off guard reading her book.
In feedback for the images, it was suggested to me that the colour blue is not as clear as it could be. I believed Suzanne wearing blue and blending into the bluebells was obvious but to others it was interpreted more as a mauve or a violet, a difference in interpretation of colours but definitely worth noting. To improve I would have made sure that blue was clearer, perhaps a different colour flower would have been more appropriate.
Initially I took another photo of Suzanne outside, but decided it was too similar to the previous photo. I spotted this vibrant blue painting in one of the corridors in Morley and decided Suzanne had to be photographed in front of it. I had her remove her jacket as I wanted her outline to stand out from the background, therefore thought the colour of skin against the blue would be a nice contrast in tones. I think that this photo portrays the colour more successfully than the last, and by including the book I am still suggesting that reading is an important detail. Feedback asked why she was so far to the side of the portrait, I understand why this was pointed out. Personally I like her being slightly to the side of the frame, when I look at my style of shooting, I often have my subjects a little off frame- sometimes slightly evading the frame, its a personal style and perhaps it’s not to everyone’s appeal. I will strive to shoot more central portraits to experimented further in the future.
To improve this photo, I could have changed the composition and the lighting. The ISO could have been increased but I didn’t want to compromise on quality. I would reshoot this with a tripod as it was very dark in the location, with no natural lighting, therefore I would have to shoot on a low shutter speed and need to stabilise the camera.
Overall I believed I did well to produce these two shots in the time limit given to us, it required quick thinking and a lot of shooting mistakes until I stumbled on a good composition I was satisfied with.