Assignment One-B

The other half of Assignment One had the following parameters:

  • Use available light
  • Use a “normal” lens (in my case a 35mm, since I’m using a crop sensor camera)
  • Take 10-20 minutes for the session

I admit the purpose of the assignment was not entirely clear to me at first, but it has turned out to be a good lesson about lens selection.

The day before I had the session with Kathy, my co-worker Don asked if I could take a head shot for him. I told him that, serendipitously, I needed a subject for this assignment and that we could easily combine the two. I chose to shoot after work, knowing that the light would be more flattering and predictable. We also decided to do it on our employer’s property, which has a some small patches of green, but is generally more functional than decorative. However I figured shooting there would be valuable experience, as more than likely I would have to photograph someone there again. Knowing the usable areas of the property will ultimately save me time and worry.

When I started photographing Don I felt something was off right away. It had nothing to do with Don, who was a cooperative and enthusiastic subject. It had to do with the combining of my assignment parameters and the request for a head shot. For the latter I would normally use the lens I used with Kathy – a 50mm, which puts some distance between myself and the subject, but not so much that it becomes difficult to provide direction. Using the 35mm and filling the frame with head and shoulders often put me uncomfortably close to Don, but it also resulted in slightly unflattering perspective distortion. The proximity lends the image a certain intimacy though, which could be valuable in some cases.

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During the session I was also mindful of the light, as it was more overcast that day. Certain positions provided better catch lights in the eyes, which I didn’t notice as much as under eye shadowing. Ultimately I didn’t stay long at the second location, which I went to mainly to get more distance between Don and his background.

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In the third location, which had some nice grass for a background, I took a few frames, but ultimately concluded the “normal” focal length wasn’t working out. Switching to the 50mm (and thereby ending the course assignment), I took several frames I knew would better suit Don’s head shot request.

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Even though I wasn’t happy with the previous shots, it made for a good learning experience and I was prepared to turn in what I had. But with still a few days to go I figured it would be worth giving it another go, setting my sights on looser framing of my subject.

For “take two” I recruited another co-worker, Steve, and photographed him during our afternoon break. I had done a little scouting during my morning break and had a couple locations already in mind. Right away I noticed there would be (another) issue involving glasses, this time reflections. But I did my best to minimize them without giving up on the locations I had selected. With a busy highway on one side and some unattractive building “stuff” on the other, I wasn’t left with too many options.

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Keeping a comfortable distance from Steve meant a slightly looser framing, although a somewhat aggressive crop basically shows what a longer focal length would have provided.

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Ultimately I chose to do as little cropping as possible to uphold the spirit of the assignment.

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If there’s one detail I would change (other than total elimination of eyeglass reflections), it’s the positioning of his far arm. Although visible, I think it could stand to have a little more showing (there’s the other issue of his shirt needing ironing, but I can only do so much).

Overall this more defined assignment has been a good one, providing a good lesson on lens selection and listening to my instincts.

Many thanks to Don and Steve for being my cooperative and patient subjects!

See the full set of photos from the sessions.

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