Category: Exercises

OCA People and Place – People Aware: Varying the pose

An exercise to work through variations in pose. The course material suggests reviewing magazines beforehand to get an idea of variety. Even though a lot of the set-ups and poses are just unrealistic in a home setting (I was looking at Numero, Sunday Times Style supplement etc) it was useful, for thinking about variations within poses, and placement of limbs, in particular where to place hands. As in previous exercises, I asked a member of the family to pose for me – pretty much essential given the amount of patience needed on their part.

There were quite a few constraints to deal with doing this…

– For some of the images (1-4 below) I used a backdrop, but subsequently abandoned it. I got it cheap and it was pretty much impossible to get the creases out. It also wasn’t really big enough (hence the exposed flooring on a couple of the images). You get what you pay for I suppose, but I’m now going to invest in some decent seamless paper backdrops.
– Initially I used a tripod with a cable release as I wanted to keep the framing consistent and use a reasonably low ISO rating (although see below on light source). I decided to drop this as it was pretty tedious moving the whole kit about every time I wanted to get a different pose.
– I used a softbox for light, which didn’t have a lot of power, so I did need to keep the ISO pretty high (for the majority of images I couldn’t use slower shutter speeds as I had given up on the tripod). The answer here I realise would have been bigger lights.
– I was also very limited on space in my place, which was a real constraint when the subject was standing, and meant that I couldn’t use always use a long focal length (these were all taken with a 24-70mm zoom – so I could be flexible – actual focal length for each image stated in descriptions below).

1). 36mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 1600.
1). 36mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 1600.
2). 56mm, f/5.6, 1/20 second, ISO 1600.
2). 56mm, f/5.6, 1/20 second, ISO 1600.
3). 48mm, f/4, 1/80 second, ISO 3200.
3). 48mm, f/4, 1/80 second, ISO 3200.
4). 55mm, f/4, 1/180 second, ISO 3200.
4). 55mm, f/4, 1/180 second, ISO 3200.
5). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
5). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
6). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
6). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
7). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
7). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
8). 44mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
8). 44mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
9). 45mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
9). 45mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
10). 48mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
10). 48mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
11). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
11). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
12). 48mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 3200.
12). 48mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 3200.
13). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
13). 48mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
14). 55mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 3200.
14). 55mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 3200.
15). 48mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
15). 48mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
16). 60mm, f/4, 1/645 second, ISO 3200.
16). 60mm, f/4, 1/645 second, ISO 3200.
17). 70mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
17). 70mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
18). 70mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
18). 70mm, f/4, 1/60 second, ISO 3200.
19). 66mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.
19). 66mm, f/4, 1/90 second, ISO 3200.

OCA People and Place – People Aware: Focal length

This exercise demonstrates the result of varying focal length on a portrait, with progressively more distortion from wideangle (24mm), compared to standard focal length (50mm here), or medium/telephoto (70mm and 85mm). The longer focal lengths produce more attractive results. Elements of the face at wide angle are often out of proportion, whereas longer lenses have the effect of flattening features. While aperture will also be important, depth of field is reduced with a longer lens, so the background is thrown of out focus to a greater extent. The series below also illustrates that more of the background is included with a shorter lens (although note the barrelling, which is probably exaggerated by relatively wide aperture at f/4). While for a formal portrait this is unlikely to be desirable, wide angle lenses are used more commonly in reportage where inclusion of surroundings add context to the subject of the photograph.

85mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 4500.
85mm, f/4, 1/125 second, ISO 4500.
70mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.
70mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.
50mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.
50mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.
24mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.
24mm, f/4, 1/250 second, ISO 4500.

OCA People and Place – People Aware: Eye contact and expression/Review a portrait sequence

This exercise involves setting up a portrait session, and taking a sequence of portraits where the subject is looking directly into the camera, or away from it, and using judgement to determine which produces the better image. As with most of these exercises, I asked a member of the family to pose for me – I’m not sure someone that I didn’t know would have the patience. I used a simple set-up, with the camera on a tripod, and a cable release (so easier to talk to the subject and no need to constantly be looking through the viewfinder) and used the same focal length throughout. This set up also meant that I could ensure that roughly the same amount of space was occupied by the subject in each frame. I took these outside with a softbox to brighten the shadows (behind the camera to the right of the subject at about 45 degrees) and a reflector to the left of the subject to even up the lighting on the face. Again using an identical set-up throughout meant that the lighting would be consistent across all of the images. As I knew the subject it was easy to give a bit of direction where needed to make sure I produced a reasonably varied set of photographs in terms of where the gaze was and position of the head.

I did this exercise in conjunction with the next in the course material, which asks for a review of a portrait sequence. The number of asterisks against each image below indicates my rating. As requested in the course notes, I have rated each image as either not good (*), acceptable (**), good (***) and identified what I think is the single best shot (****). I should be upfront and state here that most of the poorer quality images (which were either not sharp enough or there was really obvious flaws such as the subject’s eyes being closed) didn’t make it past my editor. I also had to be selective in what I have posted since some of the differences in expression or pose were very marginal. The course notes suggest that at least 20 images are taken. I had a set of over 70 (I stopped at this as I thought I had exhausted the possible variations but, on reflection, I could have taken more face on with the head straight – and perhaps altered the positioning of the subject in the frame).

The checklist in the course notes is a useful guide for assessing portraits – I mainly concentrated on composition, angle of the head, and facial expression. I’d managed to control for some of the other criteria mentioned through my set-up (e.g. using a plain background so no distractions were behind the subject, making sure nothing else was in the frame so the whole series is simple, and the lighting balance was good due to the use of external light and a reflector as well as ambient light, and the lighting is consistent across the sequence). I took some notes throughout, and started off with some fairly standard portraits with the subject looking into the camera and then a number where the gaze was away to varying degrees (1 through to 7 below). The portraits where the subject is more side on to the camera (8 through to 14) are probably a less typical pose for a portrait. I thought these would be the better shots when I took them and took a fair number with subtle variations to gesture and pose but, after reviewing them, I don’t have enough of the subject’s head in the shot and they look a little awkward (for a further edit I would be inclined to crop so the white space to the right is not so prominent). However, I think these work better than the similar sequence where the other side of the subject’s side of the face is closest to the camera (19-22), perhaps because this position didn’t feel as natural to the subject, and there wasn’t actually much space on this side for her to look into. After reviewing the whole set I would say the better shot is probably where the subject is face on (16). It’s a fairly formal pose but the subject is at ease, with the head to a slight angle.

1. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.***
1. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.***
2. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
2. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
3. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
3. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
4. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
4. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
5. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
5. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
6. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
6. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
7. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
7. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
8. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
8. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
9. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
9. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
10. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
10. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
11. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
11. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
12. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
12. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
13. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
13. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
14. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
14. 85mm, 1/30 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
15. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
15. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
16. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.****
16. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.****
17. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
17. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
18. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
18. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
19. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
19. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
20. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
20. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.*
21. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
21. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
22. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**
22. 85mm, 1/20 second, f/4, ISO 100.**

OCA People and Place – People Aware: An active portrait

The idea of this exercise is for the subject to be preoccupied and involved in some sort of activity, but the image shouldn’t necessarily capture the activity itself. The focus should be the person and the facial expression. I can appreciate the role of active portraits, particularly in magazine and newspaper features, where the subject wouldn’t be asked to pose, but instead would be taking part in an familiar activity, and sometimes perhaps not even aware of the camera. It’s not a style of that I am used to, at least where the subject is aware that you are taking their portrait, and I should have tried to capture the subject in a more engaging activity here as the image has little to draw to the viewer’s attention. As the course notes explain, a large number of images are usually needed to edit down from (inevitably there will be gestures that look awkward, hands obscuring the face etc).

Texting. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/2.8, ISO 4500.
Texting. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/2.8, ISO 4500.

OCA People and Place – People Aware: Experimenting with light

An exercise involving portraits, ideally using the same subject and framing, but different lighting conditions. I needed to have a couple of attempts at this. While on the first attempt I was doing different things, the difference in lighting effect was marginal so I did them again, using natural light only, natural light with a reflector, and two images where I used a softbox (closer from the side, then further away from the back). I stuck to the same location. With hindsight I should have used some others, as I had limited variation from the natural light source which was daylight coming in from the window. Still, there is still quite a stark difference where artificial light is introduced, evening the lighting and reducing shadow on the subject’s face.

Natural light only. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/4, ISO 4500.
Natural light only. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/4, ISO 4500.
Natural light with reflector. 85mm, 1/60 second, f/4, Iso 2200.
Natural light with reflector. 85mm, 1/60 second, f/4, Iso 2200.
Softbox to side with natural light. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/4, ISO 2200.
Softbox to side with natural light. 85mm, 1/125 second, f/4, ISO 2200.
Natural light with softbox (directly behind and more distanced). 85mm, 1/90 second, f/4, ISO 2200.
Natural light with softbox (directly behind and more distanced). 85mm, 1/90 second, f/4, ISO 2200.

OCA People and Place – People Aware: Thinking about location

The second exercise in the ‘People Aware Module’ of OCA People and Place. It’s about finding different backgrounds for a portrait, either full frame or torso. I found the backgrounds below in a park, hence all were woods, stone, shutters etc. The guidance notes state how ideally backgrounds should have tonal and textural simplicity from edge to edge. The exception to this might be where a subject is deliberately placed to show context of their environment. I settled on the shutter for the background (but taken from with the subject at an angle rather than flat on – and admittedly probably a bit too close) for the portrait as it was the cleanest background and provided a good contrast I thought. I used natural light and a reasonably long focal length of 75mm (equivalent – a 50mm lens on a cropped sensor) to limit distortion of facial features, and a wide aperture of f/2.8 to soften the lines on the shutters.

Brick
Brick
Metal
Metal
Shutter
Shutter
Stone (1)
Stone (1)
Stone (2)
Stone (2)
Wood Panel
Wood Panel
70mm (equivalent). 1/250 second, f/2.8, ISO 200
70mm (equivalent). 1/250 second, f/2.8, ISO 200.

OCA People and Place – People Aware: Portrait Scale and Setting

The first exercise in People and Place asks for four portraits, starting with a close crop of a subject’s face; then scaled to show the subjects’s head and shoulders; then torso (with arms and hands); then full figure. The images below were all taken in one sitting using natural light with the camera mounted to a tripod and using a cable release. For the first two at least, the elements of focus are the face and eyes. In the third, the eye is also drawn to the subject’s hands. With hindsight I might have set the series up differently, so that the light was stronger on the side of the face closest to the camera, but there are later exercises that deal with lighting where I can take alternatives. Likewise I mainly kept focal length at 70mm (apart from the full figure – as it wasn’t practical to distance myself any further from the subject) as other exercises explore the effect of using different focal lengths on a subject.

1. Close. 70mm, 1/4 second, f/2.8, ISO 400.
1. Close. 70mm, 1/4 second, f/2.8, ISO 400.
2. Head and shoulders. 70mm, 1/4 second, f/5.6, ISO 400.
2. Head and shoulders. 70mm, 1/4 second, f/5.6, ISO 400.
3. Torso. 70mm, 1/4 second, f/4, ISO 400.
3. Torso. 70mm. 1/4 second, f/4, ISO 400.
4. Full figure. 44mm, 1/4 second, f/4, ISO 400.
4. Full figure. 44mm, 1/4 second, f/4, ISO 400.