I’ve decided to start my first post for 2019 as a raw and unfiltered discussion about my approach to photography. Transparency is good, right?
When I started out in photography there were two types of people, I saw them as those that hid their ‘dark magic’ and refused to share their camera settings or techniques that helped to create beautiful photographs.
Then there were the generous, giving people that actively helped people. I attended ‘Anything goes’ photo walk abouts; women only meet ups; numerous free workshops held by amature enthusiasts. It was the foundation of my learning.
What’s most surprising about the above is that I was the only British person in a Singaporean community. Later, I met other British women on sponteaneous meetups and organised model shoots. But initially, I reached out and connected with a range of experts, invited myself into their homes and attended studio sessions without really knowing anyone.
It was the kindness of strangers that helped me find my feet, which is why I reach out and invit others to ask me questions.
Tann’s photographs are a good example of how I use light, so I’ve included ‘straight out of the camera’ (SOOC) previews to aid our discussion.
Initially, we started the session standing, but I immediately noticed the light falling downwards, ending in a beautiful glow just above the floor. So, I asked Tann to sit down by the edge of the window sill.
I tried to edit the first picture in the screenshot, but eventually rejected it. The brightest part of the image is her collar bone and I wanted the attention to fall on her face. Which is why picture 2 and 3 have a pose with a hand over her heart; I wanted to break up the brightness of the décolletage.
If you look at the last two pictures, where Tann is now standing, notice the light illuminating the elbows which are too bright and distract from the face. We’ll talk more about these pictures later.
Below is a triptych which helps us talk about posing, the photos have not been edited at all. Tann was wonderful to work with and flowed effortless through her repertoire making my life infinitely easier.
Learning to pose non-models is a whole series of blogs, with Tann I recognised her professionalism and confidence so I tended to follow her series of poses. Once I found one that I liked asked her to “pause and explore that pose there.” In fact, a golden rule with hands is that they don’t actually touch your face or body in case they drag skin, so I tend to ask models to, “rest your hands against your neck.”
Look again at pose 1 and 2, the hands blocking the face creates a barrier to the viewer, whilst the final pose has a more delicate feel inviting the viewer to reflect and linger on the photograph.
Getting a feel for the whole series is important to understanding the organic nature of portrait sessions. I communicate endlessly with the model throughout the shoot and tend to reveal my thought processes as they unfold, Tann knew how to create movement and expression based on my feedback. It’s a little bit like directing a movie.
Row 1 – I was concerned about the too bright chest area, so you can see I ask Tann to use different hand gestures until we found our mojo. Then I added a bit of the curtain to lower the contrast on the scene.
Row 2 – Now the poses rarely vary as I’ve found the magic light and have asked Tann to work within the tight frame because the pocket of light is beautiful.
Row 3 – To counteract the bright chest area I ask Tann to lean against the wall. Half way through you can see that I’ve asked Tann to move her hands closer to her body so I don’t keep cropping off her limbs.
Row 4 – whilst the light was good in row 3, I’ve moved Tann right next to the window sill to create a high contrast light. My camera settings haven’t changed, but the light drop off creates a darker shadow on Tann’s face which suits the mood of mystery I was exploring.
Row 5 – now I’ve found the right light and the right frame I get to work on expressions and Tann didn’t disappoint. She really was a delight to work with.
My final discussion talks about colour. I shot the whole session on monochrome jpeg (& RAW which could be translated into colour). Tann’s styling was impeccable and the hair contrasting with the wall is what makes these photographs special. Colour theory tells us that orange / green are two colours to combine harmoniously and you can feel the punch from Tann’s styling.
Working in monochrome takes a little getting used to and a big leap of faith that the photographs are going to turn out OK. However, it is a useful approach to ensuring the shadows reveal enough of the face whilst allowing other parts of the body to recede into a mysterious backdrop.
I switched between monochrome (green filter) for smooth transitions and soft expressions with monochrome (red filter) for high contrast, punchy expressions in camera. It saves a little on editing and helps with the story telling.
Emotional impact ensures a successful photograph, the two images below are SOOC and both tell a different story. A black and white image conveys more of a narrative and suits an ‘eyes closed’ pose, whilst Tann’s beautiful eyes looking out of the frame suits a coloured variation. Both are equally valid, it just depends what story you want to tell.
I hope these photographs have helped you understand my approach to photography. As always, fire away if you have any questions.
To help you move forward I’m sharing these helpful posts from previous years:
Amanda Herbert | Isle of Wight