Exercise: Portrait – Scale and Setting
Begin with a tight framing on the face in which at least part of the outline of the head is cropped by the frame. Pull back for the second framing where this should include the head and shoulders in view. Pull back again for the third framing that includes the torso. You have to decide whether or not to crop above or below the waistline and also what to do with the subjects hands. The final framing should be pulled all the way back for a full-length image and you will need to decide whether the subject is sitting or standing.
With this series of images, I wanted to them appear as natural as possible, and with that in mind I attempted to reduce the amount of direction I gave to Ann to reduce the stress this photo’ session placed upon her and so that she adopted a body posture she felt comfortable with and was a natural stance for her. In fact the only direction I had to give was where she stood, for the background, and where she looked, facial expression I also left to her.
The head shot is Ann’s least favourite image, possibly so for all mature ladies as it makes the viewer well aware of the passage of time on the soft tissue of the face. The eyes are still bright and clear and the catch-lights show her deep, bluey-green eyes up well. Using a very wide aperture has reduced the depth of field to almost a slice and the soft-focus is beginning to show very quickly beyond the plane of the right eye.
The head and shoulders image Ann is more pleased with. The fact that she has a partial smile helps she thinks and the fact the camera is now further away reduces the awareness of the passage of time. The eyes are still dominant and along with the partial smile the eyes have slightly crinkled giving a warmer expression. The background is now somewhat in focus although the aperture has remained the same as Image 1: at f/1.8 and along with the pattern on the top Ann is wearing makes the eye move around the picture more.
The torso shot needed to be cropped below the waist to fully include the arms and hands which would have made the image appear unfinished had I cropped higher. The eyes still create the centre of focus but are nowhere near as dominant as in Image 1: and Image 2: The colours of the T-shirt now start to come into their own, bringing the eye away from the face and the shape of the arms also add a studied casualness. The right shoulder has dropped slightly and the slight cant of the head to the left introduces the element of humour lurking in the relationship between us as the image is made.
The final full-length image is a another take on the second and third although now Ann has a slightly imperious look as she’s getting bored with the whole exercise. The fact that I’ve kept the lower half of her body well into shadow has forced the attention to concentrate on the upper half, where the interest of a portrait in this style lies. The view is a more pronounced upward angle now, which also lends the effect of dominance by the subject where the others have been either on a level with the eyes or only very slightly lower.
It wasn’t until I made portrait images of my own that I fully realised how much the angle of the camera has on the perceived tone emanating from the subject actually has. I think that in later exercises I’ll have to look at making the angle downward pointing as I believe this will impart a feeling of supplication or innocence.