Make a Google Images search for ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’, or any ordinary subject such as ‘apple’ or ‘sunset’. Add a screengrab of a representative page to your learning log and note down the similarities you find between the images.
Now take a number of your own photographs of the same subject, paying special attention to the ‘Creativity’ criteria at the end of Part One. You might like to make the subject appear ‘incidental’, for instance by using focus or framing. Or you might begin with the observation of Ernst Haas, or the ‘camera vision’ of Bill Brandt. Or if you’re feeling bold you might forget about your camera completely and think about the tricky question of originality in a different way – http://penelopeumbrico.net/index.php/project/suns/
Add a final image to your learning log, together with a selection of preparatory shots. In your notes describe how your photograph or representation differs from your Google Images source images of the same subject.
Google screen grabs
Typing three different google searches for portrait, the following are the results that came up.
By the time I finished experimenting with exercises in natural and artificial light, even though my earlier discussion with my tutor had been on the lines of experimenting with natural light, I became fascinated more with artificial light and learning how to control and manipulate it to reach a desired result. Portrait photography has been of particular interest to me for a long time but never really got a chance to explore it extensively. So grabbing this opportunity to explore portraiture seemed like a natural choice. There are two reasons I want to attempt portrait photography for this section – firstly, I have explored natural light for years but with animals as subjects and wanted to explore people for a change. Secondly, I wanted to explore both natural and artificial light for this but with a clear mind to explore the final assignment in artificial lighting, hence to get as much practice in the relevant topic became a natural choice. This particular section is my trial/practice session before the final assignment shoot takes place.
Having attempted torso/head shots in my earlier portraiture exercise in natural light, for this exercise, I wished to explore people differently, perhaps with an emphasis upon the human form and its strengths rather than focusing on just a headshot. This led me to photograph my yoga teacher, a traditionally-trained and immensely skilled and highly qualified yoga instructor, under who’s guidance and training I have been practising for the last ten years.
The idea for this started with my yoga teacher’s wish to make Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga charts in all the 171 yogic postures for his school, that he had been wanting for a long time but never really materialised, due to one reason or another. These charts are used by various yoga instructors as a tool to show their capabilities as well as a promotional material. This couldn’t have come at a more perfect time and we agreed to do this shoot. All the yoga charts I have seen are against plain white backdrop and really not exciting at all. I wanted his to be different, striking and something that will make people stop and take notice. I had a clear picture of what kind of an outcome I wanted out of this. I pre-visualised it to be a high contrast, B&W striking image that emphasised and brought forward the human form in all its strengths and glory.
Techniques, lighting and Exif Info
The set of this was built at home. I have used a Savage black paper background for this. The lighting was tricky in this as individual lighting for each image had to be dealt differently due to the constantly changing position of the body, hence it is not possible for me to give lighting diagrams for each image but I have used up to four lights for this shoot with at least the overhead light on a boom stand as a constant for all images. Depending on the individual requirements for each image, a light each has been placed at 90 degrees on the camera-left and camera-right. In a lot of images, especially the lower ground level shots, an additional light and reflector have been used from the front in order to light the face as well as the body.
A grid has been used on all the lights to avoid spillover on to the background so as to keep it as black as possible. And a strip soft box 1×3′ has been used on the overhead boom light.
- Camera– Nikon D6
- Lens- ZEISS Otus 55mm f/1.4 ZF manual Focus Lens
- ISO 200
- Manual Mode
- Temperature- 4800
- Exposure – Normal
If there was only ONE image that I had to present it would be the central image in the selection of my seven favourite shots below.
The selected individual images can be seen in the gallery below.
Preparatory shots Contact Sheets
All of the shots that we recorded for this two-day long shoot can be seen in the contact sheets below.
When I started this two-day long shoot, I did not realise that it will be as complex as it turned out to be. My idea that a couple of fixed lights on the set and then shooting all postures in a sequence and I will be done was quite quickly thrown out of the window when one change of posture taught me that the lighting will have to be adjusted as per every individual posture. Such insights can only come when you are actually practising in real life and not just reading about how to do it as the real life scenario is quite different than text book reads.
So in order to minimise the changing the position of lights too much, we decided not to go in a sequence but to compartmentalise the postures into sitting, standing, side, etc. kind of grouping and then tweaked the light around as we went ahead. Definitely, this turned out to be a great source of practical learning and added to my knowledge of playing with light immensely. Despite all the hurdles, I did manage to get an even lighting through the shoot, which was important especially when one has to sit all the images next to each other in a chart. Any mistakes would then be stark and obvious. I have touched upon and finished the images in Photoshop.
Difference between google-grabs and my photographs
All the images that showed up on the google search were basically torso shots of people in different lightings and backgrounds but very similar to one another. Some of them famous or professional models or just simply ordinary beautiful people. They are all stunning portraits, striking, powerful, professional but are of a very similar framing.
Portraiture being such a common subject, I wanted to approach it differently, away from the traditional definition of a portrait. Compared to the google grabs, I feel that my images are just not beautiful pictures of a face but brings forward the ability of a human body in terms of its strengths, thus celebrating the human form not only of its beauty but its capabilities as well. Another difference that I feel is that compared to the google grabs, my images tell a story- they reveal more information about the person photographed besides being just a pretty face. One is then forced to look beyond the face and see and understand the photo more. Lastly, my images might not conform to the traditional definition of a portrait shot as compared to what I found on google.
This exercise was my final attempt to learn as much about controlled lighting as I can before I attempted to shoot for the final assignment. That i did this before turned out to be a big blessing as without this, I do not think I would have had a very successful final photoshoot. It added a lot of valuable learning about lighting which was important to understand the complexities that the next shoot presented me with. Practice definitely goes a long way.