Exercise- Varying the Pose

For this exercise set up a portrait session, and plan for your subject to adopt in turn at least three different basic positions (sitting, standing etc.) Within these, suggest, as you shoot, different limb positions. Later, review the results and assess how effective or attractive the variations were.

I took my seven year old niece as the subject for this exercise. All the images were simply taken in our back garden. I chose three positions that I use regularly in portrait photography, and used variations within these as shown below;

  •  Standing. I placed my subject in front of a tree, and got her to adopt the basic standing position. We tried varying poses in this position such as;

– Standing, arms straight in front of body- one hand placed on top of the other. This resulted in a pleasant pose that was sweet- but didn’t really match Lynne’s outgoing personality, and thus it appeared awkward.

– Standing, hands on hips. This was another pleasant pose which suited Lynne’s personality better. The subject now appears more confident in front of the camera, and this makes for a good pose. However I felt that the subject was appearing a little detached from the background. Therefore I thought it would look better for the subject to be connected to the background in some way.

– Standing, one hand on hip, one hand hooked over the tree. This was the winning pose. The connection with the background made the image seem less disjointed. The pose is a confident one which suits my subject well. The natural way in which she placed her legs slightly crossed makes the subject appear relaxed, and ensures that it does not look like an awkward forced pose. This is a good method which I have learnt- instruct the subject roughly as to how you would like them to pose; but ensure the instructions are very rough so as to allow the subject to reach the pose in as natural way for them as possible. This will ensure against stiff poses. The angle of the subject’s body slightly away from the camera- with the face turned slightly towards the camera, creates an angle in the shoulders that works well as it is not too square towards the camera.

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  • Leaning

– Leaning against the fence, arms straight down by subject’s side; palms against the fence, legs crossed slightly. This was an ‘ok’ pose, but again my subject appeared awkward as this was not a normal confident pose for her outgoing littler personality.

– Leaning against the fence, arms crossed across subject’s chest, legs crossed slightly. This was better than the previous pose and my subject was now much more comfortable. However, the appearance of both arms and legs crossed created a very ‘closed off’ pose which was too detached from the viewer.

– Leaning against the fence, arms crossed across subject’s chest, one leg propped up against fence. This was the best pose of the set. The leg propped up against the fence creates a relaxed and pleasant pose. Upon further review; the subject’s smile is a little too ‘Cheshire cat’ like, and needs to be a little less intense. Possibly a more serious, thoughtful expression would have worked better.

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  •  Jumping

– Jumping in the air, arms straight up above head, legs slightly bent. This was a good pose, but not a great one. The arms placed straight above the subject’s head did not work that well, as it gave my subject a little too much to do. Therefore I decided that I needed to simplify the pose slightly. The legs slightly bent also made the subject look too close to the ground; as I was aiming for a higher jump appearance.

– Jumping in the air, arms bent slightly by subject’s side, legs bent a little more than previous shot. This was another good pose. The arms slightly bent by the subject’s side provided a much better position as this is a more natural way for a jumping person to place their arms. The legs were slightly more bent in this shot, but still not bent enough for the subject to appear high in the air.

– Jumping in the air, arms bent slightly by subject’s side, legs bent right behind subject; as much as is possible. This was the best pose of the set. The legs bent to a larger degree gave the illusion that the subject was much higher in the air. This was also the only pose where the subject remembered to look at the camera when jumping. There was a lot for a seven year old to remember! The smiling expression of the face makes this a very natural shot. This is a great way to relax the subject as it is very difficult for a subject to force a smile when jumping!

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Exercise- Focal Length

In this exercise, plan to make exactly the same framing on a face with different focal length. With a zoom lens, use at least three: at either end of the zoom scale and in the middle. Examine the results. Note your own judgement of the differences.

For this exercise I used my 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses. I chose to use my Mum as the model. Due to the fact she was standing for around 5 minutes while I changed lenses she is not providing the best natural smile in the images. However, I chose to overlook this and concentrate on the point of the exercise- to compare the differences in each focal length. I took a variety of shots at different focal lengths, but decided to use the three main ones; wide angle (24mm), Average Portrait length (50mm), and zoom (200mm). Below you will find my comparison between each.

Wide Angle (24mm). The problem with using a wide angle focal length is that the subject can sometimes appear a little distorted. In this shot the results aren’t too bad, however the model’s legs do appear a little small in comparison to her body, which appears rather large. An 18mm focal length would accentuate this further, and the appearance would be a ‘fish eye’ type effect. I have found that anything from 30mm and above gives acceptable results. Another problem with this wide an angle is the proximity to the subject, which can be very awkward, and results in the camera pointing very close to their face; intimidating the subject and resulting in a stiff image.

24mm focal length

Average (40-50mm) This focal length provides an accurate image- showing best the scene as I saw it. The subject is not distorted at all, and the resulting image is pleasing to look at, but not overly spectacular. The distance from the subject is very comfortable at this focal length; far enough away as to not intimidate the subject, yet still close enough to enable the photographer to instruct and communicate with the subject easily.

43mm focal length

Zoom (200mm). Upon reviewing this image at a later date, I noticed there was image blur on the subject’s face. This shows a problem with using a large focal length; the lens is harder to steady and therefore blurring occurs more frequently. This has taught me that a larger ISO and shutter speed are necessary in future whilst using a large zoom lens. In comparison with the other two images, this one does give the most pleasant finished result. The focal length shows off the subject more attractively; and as this is a lot different from how we view the scene, it is more interesting to look at.

200mm focal length

This was an interesting exercise which showed me that a large focal length is the most attractive lens option for a portrait photo. However, a standard 50mm focal length provides a safe option which also gives a good solid result.