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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Understanding Your Subject

In this one I want to talk about understanding your subject.

Choose well
One of the points I have always brought up about portraits is you want someone that will stand out. In this case Patrick was being wheeled about in his wheelchair by three women (they turned out to be his daughters) I could see in his face so much character that I knew he would make a good subject. If the person stands out in a crowd they will stand out in an image, the issue you have is so many people simply don't look at the older generation and its so many opportunities missed.

Set up
Once you get the OK to take the photograph you need to make sure you have set your camera up well, for this image I used the canon f2.8 70-200mm at 70mm and with the f point on 2.8, I use such a high f/stop to ensure it softens the background and the focus is on the face and not any background clutter.

This was a deliberate close shot, the top of the head is cropped from the image, this gives the effect that the subject is closer to the viewer. A technique started by David Bailey in the 60's when photographing celebs and it works well. If you look at most of my street portraits you will see I use this a lot. It creates a more intimate image that the viewer feels more drawn to.

This is what will make or break and image, I ask anyone I photograph to simply look straight at me, this gives me direct eye contact with the viewer and myself. I find what happens they will ultimately show an expression that they are either comfortable with or they will do something else that will make the image. In this one Patrick looked at me over his glasses and raised one eyebrow, his expressions says "What are you up to sonny boy" and coupled with his pursed lips it made a great expression.

Get this right, how you point your camera will make all the difference, if they are shorter that you try and get lower, if taller stand on tiptoes, you want to try and and get on the same eye level as your subject. There are times thought when you want it to work the other way, if they are very tall you might want to show this and shoot more upward. In this case because Patrick was in a wheelchair I had to get low but when he gave me this look I wanted it to look as if he is looking down on the viewer so I had to get down just that bit lower.

As in my previous post I spoke about the importance of light, it still stands when doing portraits, he had the light coming over his left shoulder that could have masked his face so I moved slightly to the right and he followed me to face what I was doing, this lit his face up and gave me the right amount of light.

The last thing to consider is what end result you want, I knew at the time of taking this image I wanted a black and white image simply to show the character in his face. There are times though when colour is better but this can be a personal choice, you need to go the way you are comfortable with.


Tigra said...

My dear Mike Shaw, your pictures are really awesome. I like all your photos, they are very amazing.
Grettings from Argentina.
I see you later...

Hope said...

thank you Mike for taking the time and giving us some of your thoughts.. they are very helpful..
Hope your New year will bring all you wish it to be..