Portraits – Workshop

The Brief

Picking up your camera and shoot a series of portrait of your peer and of someone you don’t know, capturing different feelings:

  • Head and Shoulders
  • Close-up
  • Interacting

(All Photos are unedited)

1st Someone I know

Head and Shoulders:


This photo is underexposed but is an alright headshot. The composition respects the rule of thirds, his eyes are on the dominant points of the image, and he is symmetrically framed.


As this is a personal friend, the photo is taken in his bedroom. I wanted to give a personal effect to these photos as I am close friends with the subject.


I have also attempted to utilise lighting to reflect the situation. The warm colours connote the intimacy of the photo and the smile the subject has. This is a kind photo of a welcoming subject and the lighting reflects this.


This was the photo I attempted to get of my subject doing an activity. He is playing a game, as this is a familiar setting, but it is not a good portrait of this. For one, the game or anything relating to the game is not included in the photo and for two, the photo is a bit blurry. I did not do enough to compensate for his movements with my shallow depth of focus.

2nd Someone I don’t know

This next subject was my friend’s flatmate. She likes cooking so I took her portraits in the kitchen.


The first portrait I took of her was an extreme close-up. This best shows her emotions of polite confusion. She was not expecting to have her photograph taken and so was not ‘ready’ for it.


For the next photo of this subject, I altered the white balance to reflect my relationship with this person. The subject’s facial expression is not anger, but not greeting either.

For this reason, I stopped taking her photo at this point.

In Conclusion

There is a lot to consider when taking someone’s portrait: composition, location, lighting and trying to capture the subject’s feelings. If the photo is just of them, all aspects of the image should convey the subject’s emotions and the relationship between the subject and photographer.

Editing in Camera Raw

After shooting in just jpeg’s, I moved onto shooting in RAW. This is a photo file format that colours each pixel rather than in blocks of one colour, as a jpeg does. This means the photo will never decrease in quality as a jpeg will when saved and re-saved. It also means that the file is a larger size, but is better for editing. This is Adobe’s Raw editor, ‘Camera Raw CC’. I used the histogram of the image to adjust the image.


Record 1 Orig
Original, un-edited photo


Editing the photo

I began with exposure. This image was over-exposed by around a factor of 1.08 so I used the slider to reduce the exposure using the histogram to check by how much to get a correct exposure.

I next boosted the contrast slightly, just to add a bit of depth to the image. I just eyed this myself.

I then reduced the highlights in the image (mainly on the right side of the record where the natural lighting hit) and boosted the shadows slightly.

After that, I added to the whites and reduced the blacks in the image, this assisted the boost of contrast I adjusted earlier.

Finally, I turned the vibrancy and saturation down whiles adding some clarity to compensate. This was because the other alterations I made to the image boosted the saturation so I reduced this factor to compensate.

In Conclusion

I tried to get the best exposure I could whilst shooting, this is not a tool to fix photos, but to get a better exposure within reason. To make major edits I would use photoshops tools, but to fix small issues and save photos that would potentially have been unusable, Camera Raw CC is a great programme.

Photo Editing

I have been editing photos for a number of years now and so thoroughly enjoyed this process. I wanted to show how I would go about editing a simple photo to get the result I desired, this is the first photo I edited for this series of photos.

1. Original Photo

Orig photo

Unfortunately, I shot this photo before learning to shoot in a RAW format and therefore, did not make any adjustments in ‘Camera RAW CC’. This file is a jpeg and so I imported this file directly into photoshop.

2. Levels Adjustment

Levels adjusment

As I did not have the opportunity to edit the photo in ‘Camera RAW CC’ before bringing the photo into Photoshop, the first step I took was in adding a ‘Levels adjustment’ layer. I looked at the histogram of my image and adjusted the levels to add contrast to my image and get a better exposure (the image was originally underexposed). I could have used a ‘Curves adjustment’ layer or a ‘Contrast/Brightness adjustment’ layer to alter the contrast, but for this photo, I found the levels adjustment gave me the look I wanted.

The photo after this adjustment:

Levels change

3. Adding a LUT

A LUT is an acronym for ‘look-up table’ and adds a level of dynamic range to a photo. They are often used for bulk editing photos because once you’ve designed the look you desire for your photo, you can apply to multiple images without having to edit each photo individually.

For this image, I chose ‘Crisp_Warm.Look’ as enhanced the dark shadows in my image whilst maintaining detail by boosting contrast and adding an almost autumnal glow.

Crisp warm look

I then lowered the opacity to around 50% so the effect was not overwhelming.

4. High-Pass

The final layer I added to this image was a ‘high-pass’ filter. This adds depth to my image and increases fine detail which is exactly what I wanted as I wanted to emphasize the chips on the drumstick.

This effect is achieved by creating a new merged layer, (cmd+alt+shift+e) which takes all layers and creates a new, single layer.



I then set this layer to blend mode overlay and reduced its opacity to 60%.

Bland Mode overlay


All of these edited still make the photo ‘real’. I have not created any false truth, but merely emphasized the aspects of the photo I wanted to as these convey the meaning I wanted to convey in this photo. For this photo, I wanted to show how deep the chips were as this conveys another method in which music can be ‘seen’.

Sticks 1 - Final.jpg

Reading Log Week 5 + Photo Progression

Up to this point the only controlled lighting I have used has been using studio lighting, the rest of the time I have had to adjust to my surroundings.

David Präckel: Basics Photography Lighting

Control over lighting means the photographer is able to achieve the exact effect they desire. For example, if they wanted to capture a large depth of field they would need to use a small aperture and this reduces the amount of light hitting the sensor, controlling light means the exact settings the photographer wants to capture are achieved (see Photo progression post Week 5 for more).

Präkel begins by introducing the Flashgun. It is light, fits on top of the camera with the ‘hot shoe’, and is able to create bounced or diffused light to suit the photographer’s needs. Some downsides are, “the exposure is only correct for a set distance, which can produce dark backgrounds and overexposed foregrounds” (Präkel, 2007). Some flashguns can be external, connected by a wire or wirelessly, to allow the photographer full control over their shots light.

Präkel goes on to mention ‘guide numbers’ which is a concept I am still trying to understand. He says, “there are three key specifications for any flashgun – guide number (a measure of flash power for a given film speed), recycling time (the speed to recharge between flashes) and coverage (the angle that the flash beam covers).”

“Guide number = aperture x distance

To work out the aperture: measure the distance to the subject (use your lens scale). Divide the guide number by this distance to get the f-stop. Guide number of 45 (GN) Flash to subject distance is 8m (FD) Aperture is unknown (f) f = GN/FD 45/8 = f/5.6

To work out the flash distance: divide the guide number by working aperture to get the flash to subject distance. Guide number of 45 (GN) Flash to subject distance is unknown (FD) Aperture is f/11 (f) FD = GN/f 45/11 = about 4m”


I began by setting my camera to the window light (turns out setting a correct exposure was too low) and then adding my flashgun to my camera.


This turned out to be exposed correctly on my subject but underexposed outside. To fix this I did my settings again, with the light meter indicating the shot was over-exposed. Adding the flashgun again I took a much better photo of my subject with correct exposure throughout.


Präkel then talks about flash synchronisation. This is important when using cameras with a manual shutter as if the shutter speed is too fast, only some of the image will be affected by the flash. The limit on the Nikon D7000 is a 250th of a second.

He also touches on how the flash duration can affect how a photo looks. Instead of having a very quick shutter speed, the light being so fast has the effect of freezing a moving object whilst having a manageable shutter speed.

This comes on to rear curtain photography


This is achieved by having more than one flash with a relatively long exposure, one at the start and one at the end, in a dark environment. Using the example of someone running, with one flash at the start and on at the end, an initial outline of where the subject starts is formed. The second flash is the stronger outline of the two and motion blur is behind them. (This is seen better in this image);

First and second curtain sync

The book goes on to talk about the on-camera flash. This flash is unflattering and can lead to red-eye and, if using a wide angle lens, can lead to hot spots of light. The on-camera flash also only goes in one direction and gives a very flat frontal light. But it is good as a fill light in an already light situation.

Lighting – Week 5

This week saw me give an ‘elevator pitch’ (see my other post on my pitch), and begin to use studio lighting.

This was challenging for a few reasons but mainly it was using new equipment and understanding the concept of lighting. We used a large light on a stand, in a room with no other light source. The light had a bulb so the photographer can see his subjects ‘set-up’, and a power level of flash which could be tested.

To set up a subject in this environment I first decided on the settings of my camera I wanted, for which I chose f5.6, ISO 100 and 1/60 of a second shutter speed. I then placed my subject where I wanted them, away from the light source. Next, I set a light meter to match my shutter speed and held it on my subjects face. Testing the flash gave me the reading of what f-stop I would need to get an even exposure, if the number was low I would turn up the power of my flash as this meant the subject looked too dark. Visa versa if the f-stop suggested was more than f5.6 I would turn the power of the flash down a half-stop or so until the flash reading on the meter matched the settings I wanted for my photo.

This meant I could move wherever I wanted to in the room, toward and away from my subject, as long as they did not move in relation to the light, the settings were perfect. However if the subject did move, this set-up process would have to be repeated.

I also could not go over a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second as this would make the flash affect only some of the image before the shutter came down again. This was made easier as the flash connected physically to my camera with a wire.


Portraits – Week 4

This week saw a new avenue of photography for me, portraits. I had not planned to take portraits for my final project, but the skills that I learnt discovering a new method of photography can be applied to my project.

85mm, 50mm and 35mm Portraits

(These photos were all taken with a Nikon D7000 which has a 1.5x cropped sensor, e.g 50mm x 1.5 = 75mm).

This test was to see the change that zoom has on the relation between subject and background. Between each photo, I moved forward towards my subject to maintain my framing, a mid-shot, waist to head. The effect that this has is on how wide the shot is. The 85mm only shows the elevator, the 50mm shows a little side of stair and the 35mm shows the entirety of the stairs. Based on this test, I wouldn’t take a portrait with any less than a 50mm zoom as the 35mm shows subject distortion. I am taller than the subject so Ned’s waist appears to be smaller than it is. An extreme version of this is the ‘fisheye’ lens photo which has a very wide view. This can be seen better in the full body shots.

The door looks further away as I approach and the zoom gets smaller. The 35mm photo shows more clearly the distortion a wider lens has on an image. The subject’s feet seem tiny compared to the rest of him, which is not true as the 85mm zoomed photo shows.

Connotations from a still subject

Everything in a photo has a meaning, nothing is done by mistake, and all photos can be read top to bottom. After completing the tasks, I made my subject stand in the snow to try and capture a well-exposed image whilst practising my portrait skills.

DSC_0902 - edit

The subjects face expression is blank, but a lot can be gained from this photo. The way he is dressed, his body-language, the props of the cigarette and camera and the location all connote something about the subject and suggest a narrative.


The same goes for this photo. Again the subject has a blank expression, but the background as well as his dress, piercings etc. all tell a story.

In Conclusion

Combing these two exercises, the relationship between the subject and the background is important when doing portraits or when photographing anything, as the background is another method of putting meaning into an image. Thinking of background is another aspect of my final project I must consider.