Assignment 1- A Portrait

Drawing together your experiences in completing the projects so far, take one person as a subject and create between five and seven different portraits. These should differ in type and style, and each be from a separate photographic session.

For this assignment I chose to use a little girl who’s mother asked if I would take a few photos of her daughter. I decided to use this pre-planned photo shoot for my assignment, as I have had a good bit of experience in children’s photography thus far, so felt that it would produce a strong first assignment. I had one afternoon with the little girl, and planned to get as much variety in the images as possible. I could have asked to have the shoot over a couple of afternoons, but did not want to impose on the family. Therefore, I decided to take my white background along with me in order to produce a variety of posed and casual shots around their home. My subject is an 18 month old little girl called Maisy. My aim was to produce a documentary style photo shoot, as this is the type of photography that I adore. The candid appearance of documentary photography works well in telling the story of the subject in their own surroundings. I used my Canon 650d, along with my kit lens and 50mm 1.8 lens. I do not have any photographic lighting as of yet- so the white background shots were taken in a conservatory using natural daylight.

Prior to this assignment I did a great deal of research into the theory of portrait photography, which you will find here. I also researched portrait photographers Jane Bown and Eve Arnold. I learnt a great deal from these inspirational photographers, such as the varying poses used in portraiture; as well as the varying skills and techniques used by each photographer, which I put into practice in this assignment. This research provided me with the techniques and confidence to successfully shoot this portrait photo session.

In editing the images I used the following techniques to enhance my images;

– Curves to adjust contrast and brightness

– Marquee tool to select the subject and increase contrast slightly. This ensures the subject stands out from the background; making them the focal point of the image.

– Marquee tool to select the eyes and increase saturation. This works in the coloured images to make the eyes stand out slightly.

– Patch tool to remove any blemishes.

– De-saturate to convert images to black and white

Below you will find my final six images;

Image 1- (ISO 800, 1/60, f2.2) I placed my subject on a chair, and captured her in a natural position; as I didn’t want the image to appear staged. I used spot metering and selected a mid-tone in order to choose the correct exposure for this shot. The full body shot shows off the subject well; teamed with the wide open aperture to focus the viewer entirely on the subject. The subject’s shoulders are at a slight angle towards the camera which aids in preventing the static appearance that can be created with shoulders placed too square to the camera. The lovely serious expression of the subject draws the attention to the wide open eyes; which I used as the focal point of this photo; focussing solely on these bright eyes.


Image 2- (ISO 800, 1/500, f2.8) I decided to include this different little photo in this set as I think it is quite a humorous and fun image. The close proximity of the lens to the subject; teamed with the wide open aperture creates a shallow depth of field which focuses solely on the subject’s face. Again I used spot metering to measure the exposure of a mid-tone in the scene; this provided me with a strong exposure.


Image 3- (ISO 800, 1/640, f2.2) I placed Maisy in an old suitcase for this shot. Unfortunately I was using my 50mm lens for maximum light, and could not retreat any further back to get the full suitcase in the frame. Maisy was also not impressed about being placed inside a suitcase; so I could not re-take the shot with a different lens. This highlights the difficulty of children’s photoshoots- emphasising the importance of a flexible photographer; rolling with the punches. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge, and find it very entertaining capturing children’s photoshoots! We also see that the background is not completely white. However, I am now in the process of acquiring some Bowens lights for future studio white background shots.

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Image 4- (ISO 800, 1/200, f2.2) I liked the introduction of the mother in this image as it tells a little more of the story of the little girl’s life. The simple pose of the mother holding her little girl is basic but effective. I asked the mother to look at her daughter whilst I encouraged Maisy to look at the camera. This ensures that the little girl is still the main focus of this photo- as with the other images in this set. Therefore the mother is simply a background secondary subject; adding interest and aiding in providing a story of Maisy’s life. The position of the mother slightly behind Maisy also ensures that Maisy is the focal point of the image. This is furthered even more through the point of focus being on the little girl- holding her in sharper focus than her Mum. I placed the image in black and white in order to concentrate solely on the subject’s, and remove any distraction that the background might provide.

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Image 5- (ISO 800, 1/500, f2.8) This is my favourite shot of the set. The subject is distracted, and looking at something to the left of the lens. This provided me with the classic head and shoulder portrait shot that is beautifully candid. Again the wide open aperture of f2.8 gives a shallow depth of field to focus solely on the subject. This was a tip I learnt from my research into Jane Bown; who’s portraits contain soft subjects with beautiful blurred bokeh backgrounds. I converted the image to monochrome again to remove any distraction the background may bring.

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Image 6- (ISO 800, 1/1000, f2.2) The sole focus of this great shot is on Maisy’s beautiful blue eyes. Again, I used a technique that I learnt through my research into portrait photographer Jane Bown. Her main tip when capturing portraits was to place the subject at a certain angle to the light in order to reflect the light in their eyes; which creates a ‘twinkle’ in the subject’s eye. We see that this has worked well with Maisy- the twinkle in her eyes being very pronounced in this shot.

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Please use the gallery below for quality image viewing:


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