People & Place

Rob Townsend's OCA Learning Log


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Exercise: An organised event

Brief

For this exercise you will need to research and prepare in advance. Look for an organised event at which there will be plenty of people and in which you can confidently expect to be able to photograph freely and with some variety. An event at which spectators are in seats will not do; one in which people move around will be more useful. There are many other possibilities, and an important part of the exercise is to find a suitable one for yourself.

Results

I decided to take pictures at the annual Pickering Game & Country Fair, more specifically the UK Tractor Show that is incorporated into the overall event. I figured that I could get some good shots of ‘characters’ in this kind of environment.

What I’ve learned

I’m not sure I learned a huge amount new in this one, but it was certainly good practice. It is similar thematically to the assignment so maybe I’ll consider it a dry run for that. I felt quite comfortable shooting in this kind of environment (although some of the ‘characters’ did look like they could do me a bit of damage if they objected to me taking their picture…) and I think this helped my general level of confidence with ‘people unaware’ photography generally.


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Exercise: Standard focal length

Brief

As in the previous two exercises, concentrate on shooting with one focal length. In this case, if you have a full-frame camera the focal length should be between 40 mm and 50 mm. If your camera uses the more common, smaller sensor size, it will be in the region of 27 mm to 32 mm.

Results

I took most of these at 27 mm on a 1.5x crop factor sensor, so the equivalent focal length is almost exactly 40 mm (the first image, of the benches, was at 35 mm crop sensor so 52.5 mm EFL).

 

After the last two exercises, at the extremes of long and wide focal lengths, I found this much more satisfying. The fact that the standard focal length approximates the human eye is what makes this kind of image work in my opinion – one of the defining characteristics of good ‘street photography’ is that it closely resembles real-life, without unnecessary distortion. It adds an extra layer of veracity that aids the feeling of ‘being there’. It feels more like photojournalism than creativity – taking more than making photographs.

From a personal point of view I found it much more comfortable: I neither felt like a stalker (as in the long lens shots) nor that I was unnecessarily intruding in people’s personal space (as in the wide-angle shots). As noted in an earlier exercise, one of the things that I think makes this kind of focal length ‘fairer’ is that the subject has a fighting chance of knowing that you’re there, and could object if they wanted to – it seems like a fair exchange, if that makes any sense.

What I’ve learned

Through these last three exercises I’ve come to better understand why most street photography tends to use the focal lengths that it does – namely the middle-ground, near-human-eye equivalents between 35 mm and 50 mm (full-frame equivalent). There are exceptions, of course, but these are stylistic choices that certain photographers make, and it gives their work a distinctive feel that in some cases distances their images somewhat from a true reality. If I’m going to do much more of this kind of photography in future, I believe I will do so with my 27 mm (40 mm EFL) and my 35 mm (52.5 mm EFL) lenses.


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Exercise: Close and involved

Brief

Switch lenses (or adjust focal length) to the widest angle that you have. A true wide-angle, judged from its visual effect, is around 28 mm or less. One of the uses of a wide- angle lens is to be able to cover a large subject area in one shot, but here concentrate instead on using it close to people, and try to achieve a sense of putting the viewer right inside the situation — as you will inevitably be! From the point of view of comfort and confidence, this is quite a challenging way to shoot, but try your best.

As with the previous exercise, note down both the problems and the advantages created by working with a wide-angle of view from very close to the people you are photographing.

Results

I used my 16-50 mm zoom at its widest, so an equivalent focal length of 24 mm due to the 1.5x crop factor of my camera. In a few instances I’d most likely have cropped a little in post-processing, but in the spirit of the exercise these are all straight out of the camera, keeping in exactly what was in the frames I shot.

To me, ‘Backlight’ is the most successful shot and that has more to do with the lighting and composition than anything else. I liked the expressions on ‘Young Couple’ and this is probably the only one where I caught a ‘moment’.

‘Three Friends’ and ‘Two Friends’ are OK composition-wise but not very exciting subject-wise. ‘Angled’ I kept in as an extreme example of how hard I found it to keep the camera level when shooting like this (I seem to have accidentally managed a 45º angle and this lends the image a certain something). ‘Photoshoot’, ‘Hat Lady’ and ‘Couple’ had extraneous elements in that I would crop out.

Advantages:

Not many to be honest! More immersive for the viewer in the more successful ones; feeling of being ‘close to the action’.

Brings an element of randomness to the results – mostly unusable but occasional surprises.

Disadvantages:

Distortion towards edges of frame (fixable in post-processing). This is most noticeable in the first two images, with buildings; it’s not so obvious with wide open spaces.

Shooting like this made me feel even more uncomfortable than the long-lens shots, for a very different reason. In these cases I felt like I was really intruding in their personal space.

Much harder to compose – mostly shooting ‘on the run’ whilst passing the subject so an element of randomness to the framing (sometimes works, mostly doesn’t).

What I’ve learned

I’ve previously used a wide lens for getting shots of people in the context of their surroundings, but this was the first time I tried to get up so close and fill the frame with the subject at such a short focal length. It felt like I was really invading their space and ‘snatching’ shots, and from a practical point of view accurate framing was near impossible due to the speed I was working. I didn’t find this style of shooting comfortable.

Right now I’m thinking that one of the objectives of the last two exercises is to demonstrate why the generally-held norm for street photography is a standard focal length – not too close, not too far away. Both of the extremes didn’t sit that well with me, each in their own way somehow taking advantage of the subject more than a standard, middle-ground focal length treatment would do.


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Exercise: Standing back

Brief

Depending on your choice of lenses, select a medium-long focal length, ideally between 80 mm and 200 mm full-frame equivalent. What practical difficulties do you note? Because of the extra distance between you and your subject, you may have found that passers-by and traffic sometimes block your view. And what special creative opportunities do you find that a long focal length and distant position have given you?

Results

I’m away from home at the moment without my full set of lenses. The longest lens I have with me is a 16-50 mm zoom (crop factor 1.5x) so full-frame equivalent focal length of 75 mm, falling a little short of the suggested 80 mm starting point. I may therefore repeat this exercise when I have my longer zoom (50-230 mm / 75-345 mm EFL) and go right in close on subjects’ faces. However, for the purposes of this version of the exercise I have used the standard zoom at its 50 mm (75 mm EFL) full extent, and have cropped the results a little to give an indication of what a longer lens might have captured.

‘Monk’ worked well in this vertical crop, maybe to do with the complementary colours. ‘Bougainvillea’ was a good example of the focal length compressing the field of view, which in this case led to a good visual effect. The remaining four, though unremarkable in themselves, are good examples of having time to be more precise with the composition.

Advantages:

I got some shots that I might not have otherwise been able to, either because being further away allowed me to go unnoticed, or practicalities like being able to shoot from over the other side of the street rather than being stood in the middle of road.

I could take longer to set up the shot, didn’t feel the need to rush so much.

Notably in the Bougainvillea bush shot, the longer lens gave more visual compression that made the subjects melt into the background. Shot from closer it would have shown more separation between background and subject, and wouldn’t have achieved as strong an effect.

Disadvantages:

The main practical disadvantage was that there were often obstacles in my eye-line that I had to work around or, in the case of moving obstacles (other people, cars) wait patiently for them to move on. Examples: ‘Monk’ and ‘Paddling’.

I was lucky to shoot with good light and so could work with fast shutter speeds, but I can see that the longer the lens, the more you need to keep the camera steady as the focal length exaggerates any unwanted motion and requires a combination of fast shutter, high ISO, wide aperture and maybe even a tripod (this last one seems out of place in street photography to me).

The biggest downside, and the reason I probably won’t do much of this type of photography under my own steam, is how it made me feel! Compared to the street shots I’ve taken before now, these made me feel very furtive, unethical even. I felt like a paparazzo, a spy, a stalker! I know it may seem contradictory or hypocritical but when you shoot with a normal/wide lens, you’re in the general field of space of the subject, and while you hope they won’t notice you, it feels like a fair exchange as they have a reasonable chance of reacting to you… in comparison the longer lens shots seemed to be much more intrusive – I felt like I was just stealing shots without justification. I imagine that this sensation is further exaggerated with a genuine telephoto lens.

What I’ve learned

I’ve learned that this kind of photography makes me feel slightly uncomfortable! More so than the closer, more street-level shots I’ve done before. On one level this seems slightly contradictory – before shooting I thought it would be ‘easier’ to shoot from a distance, and from a technical point of view it is, but the vague sense of unease I felt shooting from further away soured it for me a little. I felt less ethical, less engaged, less justified in taking the shots. So it’s both ‘easy’ and ‘uneasy’ …!


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Exercise: Capturing the moment

Brief

Find, as for the last exercise, a ‘comfortable’ situation, possibly even the same location. For this exercise concentrate on bursts of activity, from which you try to capture a ‘best’ moment.

When you’ve finished shooting, review your images and pick out those that, for you, best capture a particular moment. Make notes in your learning log explaining your choice.

Results

I took shots over a couple of days as I discovered that this exercise is not as easy as it looks! Finding exactly the right moments to capture – whether you know at the point of hitting the shutter or find it in the editing stage – is something that is difficult to do ‘on demand’.

The five pictures here are the result of a few hundred that I took in various situations and locations over the last three days. For each one I will briefly explain why I felt it was worthy of capturing that particular moment.

1. Skater

I shot from low down as I wanted to capture both the movement of the skater and the sharp shadow caused by the bright sunlight. This was the one where the body shadow shape came out clearest, and the legs straddled the red cone. The sense of motion is there, with the left leg raised, but the fast shutter speed has frozen the action well.

1. Skater

1. Skater

2. Tourists

I watched people taking photos of the view down onto the sea and after a while these two gents seemed to be mimicking each other’s movements, so I rattled off a few shots. This was the one where they seemed to mirror the pose the best. I still don’t know whether they were together or just resembled each other!

2. Tourists

2. Tourists

3. Photoshoot

This chap was taking pictures of his lady friend in front of a waterfall that I happened to be at the top of. I suppose in a sense I was doing the same as him – waiting for the right pose before I hit the shutter. I hope he got the shot too.

3. Photoshoot

3. Photoshoot

4. Macarons

I think this one stood out as I’ve managed to capture the exact moment she was picking up a macaron and I caught a smiley expression on her face.

4. Macarons

4. Macarons

5. Passing

I set myself up on a bench on the prom in Nice and took lots of pictures of who was passing, on bikes and on foot. My aim was to capture a moment of interaction or alignment between two people. In this one it initially looks as though they are together but on closer inspection it becomes more obvious that they are in fact walking past each other. I think this specific image captures the lines of their limbs well.

5. Passing

5. Passing

What I’ve learned

Whilst I enjoyed this, it did take a lot of outtakes to get to a set of usable images! If I wasn’t collecting images for an exercise I’m not convinced that I’d have considered these worthy of being shared, but they met the brief and proved the point.

In some instances (pictures 1, 2 and 5) I found it useful to pre-visualise what kind of image I wanted, and to position myself where I thought people would (if I waited long enough) wander into shot and do something interesting. For the others I was shooting a bit more speculatively, and really didn’t know whether I’d captured the right ‘moment’ until I reviewed the images after the event.

I haven’t shared them here, but in almost all cases there were ‘nearly-but-not-quite-right’ shots from a fraction of a second either side, that just missed the mark. It’s not always easy to describe exactly what makes each one work better than the close alternatives, but it was clear to my eye which ones ‘worked’.

As an exercise to demonstrate the concept of the ‘decisive moment’, it kind of worked – but as I said earlier, it’s really quite difficult to produce such moments on demand. But a very interesting and useful exercise, that has taught me to be both more demanding and more patient.


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Exercise: Developing your confidence

Brief

Choose an outdoor situation where there will be lots of people and activity, and in which you will feel confident using a camera.

Take as many photographs as you comfortably can in one session. When you review the photographs afterwards, recall the comfort level you felt at the time, and consider to what extent this helped you in capturing expression and gesture.

Results

I took my camera out to a busy food and flower market in France, where I was fairly sure there would be lots of photo opportunities and that I wouldn’t get challenged for taking pictures.

Technical note: I used a camera body with a tilting screen so that I could take my shots without lifting the camera to my eye, to draw less attention. On one level I wondered if this was considered ‘cheating’, but I settled on it being acceptable as this method of photography recalls the old twin-lens reflex cameras that some street photographers used in the mid-20th century.

Below is a selection of the shots from the session (probably about a third of what I shot in total), followed by notes on how I felt when I shot them, and how this helped (or otherwise) in the resultant images.

Individuals:

First, a selection of photos I took of individuals. What made me confident enough to shoot these was the fact that they looked like they were focusing enough on what they were doing and unlikely to spot me with my camera. Having the camera at chest height rather than eye level definitely helped my confidence, even if the difference from the subject’s point of view may have been minor.

Only one of these – ‘Smoking’ – do I consider to be a halfway decent shot. It has a nice clean background, while the others are somewhat messy.

Interactions:

For this second set I looked for interactions between people. In a similar way to the individual shots, I correctly assumed that they would be sufficiently wrapped up in what they were doing or talking about that the fact that there was a bloke nearby with a camera would go unnoticed. I think people interacting is inherently a more interesting basis for a photograph anyway – more chance to capture a unique moment, which is what I like about this type of photography.

The one I prefer is ‘Pointing’ – the alignment of the lines and the stripe patterns and the light/dark colours back-to-back in the middle give this image a number of different points of interest… but rather than being ‘messy’ I think it has enough alignment of graphical elements to achieve a certain balance.

What I’ve learned

Before I started this exercise I thought it would be fairly straightforward, as I like to think I’ve tried this kind of street photography before. However, once I started I realised that I still have a lot to learn!

Much of my previous so-called street photography of people has been from a distance, or with their backs turned to me. I realised that I have the (presumably quite common) concern of getting in too close, getting in people’s faces and generally annoying them. So this exercise broke me past that particular barrier, as I used a reasonably wide lens (27mm) so had to get fairly close.

What I learned in this exercise is that people that are sufficiently distracted, whether alone or interacting with someone else, can be photographed as long as you do so quickly and quietly.

This does however bring me on to the big challenge I have with this type of photography: in all cases here I had to crop and straighten the pictures to some degree. I realised after shooting that my composition isn’t at all precise when shooting quickly. I normally put quite a lot of thought into arranging the elements in the frame, but in the street photography environment I favoured speed over precision – taking longer than a second or two to line up and take a shot could risk the subject becoming aware and taking away the spontaneity (or worse, risking a confrontation).

The successful street photographers (especially the pre-digital ones who couldn’t see their work in progress) amazed me with their ability to spot, line up and take the shot in a split-second. The element that is missing from my photography right now is the rapid composition, so I have to rely on fixing that in post-processing. I need to work on this.

Another major learning: I need to avoid overly messy backgrounds. One piece of advice I’ve read many times, but have yet to put into practice is: find the background first, then wait for people to walk into it!

Finally, a practical point: using a chest-level camera with tilting screen was a major factor in how comfortable I felt taking photos in public. Composition is a little harder, but on balance I think it has more advantages than disadvantages – I simply took shots this way that I would not have taken if I had to lift the camera to my eye. So that must be a good thing.


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Exercise: Varying the pose

Brief

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.

Results

Subjects: I decided for the first time to use CHILDREN as subjects! These are Ethan and Emily, whose parents Mike and Amanda are good friends of ours. I (correctly) figured that kids would be less self-conscious on posing and ‘throwing shapes’. My original intention was to choose one of them but in the end I got such a good mix of shots that I basically did the exercise twice in parallel.

 Sitting:

There’s quite a variation in these, and I think they’re all reasonably successful. The Ethan shots are more laid back as I don’t think he was quite as into the idea of being photographed as his sister was. ‘Emily Sitting 2’ is probably my weakest in this set: everything is centred and the tops of the fingers are accidentally cropped off. ‘Emily Sitting 3’ is the most innovative – model’s own pose, not photographer’s direction…

Standing:

This was a little harder to find the variation in the poses. I seem to have fallen back on simply asking them to do different things with their hands! ‘Ethan Standing 1’ looks nice and casual/natural while the others look more contrived. ‘Emily Standing 2’ is a little more interesting and effective than the others.

‘Freestyle’:

This is where the more interesting poses came out! Freed from the limitations of sitting or standing, we could use our imaginations a bit more. ‘Emily Freestyle 3’ is probably my favourite shot of the series.

What I’ve learned

It’s interesting just how much variation you can get in the basic types of pose. I suppose I kind of took the easy option in using children as subjects as asking them to throw different shapes seemed easier to me than doing the same to an adult – I think we’d both feel a little self-conscious! But it has taught me that I could be a LOT more innovative in the poses I ask people to adopt when I take their photograph (as long as I’m brave enough to ask…)


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Exercise: Review a portrait sequence

Brief

Set up a portrait session with consistent setting and framing so that the only variable will be the expressions and gestures of the subject. Concentrate fully on the person’s expression (and gesture or pose if they vary), assessing it from frame to frame in order to select what you consider to be the best of the sequence. Immediately after the shooting, write down as well as you remember the frame by frame progress of your subject’s expression, noting which you felt at the time were the best. At what point did you decide that it was time to stop shooting, and why? Next, open the sequence of images and review a second time. Rate them as follows: a) not good, b) acceptable, c) good and d) the best single shot, according to your judgement. How, if at all, did this later review differ from the way you saw it at the time of shooting?

Results

Subject: this is Laura, a friend from down the road.

I took over 30 shots but removed a few early test shots and obvious bloopers (totally out of focus etc). What remains is a good representation of the main body of the shoot. I shot in black and white as I felt that the white background and her dark clothing lent itself well to this style.

At the time / immediately after:

The sequence divided into three main sections: with bounce flash; with bounce flash plus reflector card at chest height; no flash (higher ISO). At the time of shooting I thought that the ones where I had managed to catch Laura smiling or laughing were going to be the best shots, and I knew that I hadn’t managed to do this with every shot. Part of the problem that I recognised at the time was the flash recycle time led to lapses in spontaneity. This is why towards the end I ditched the flash and ramped up the ISO instead. The middle portion, where she held the reflector card, had the least spontaneous/natural expressions, probably because the fact of holding the card makes it more of an artificial situation and so harder to relax. I stopped shooting when I was reasonably sure that we had about 5-6 good shots in the bag.

During shooting and in the immediate review from memory afterwards I thought the shortlist of best shots was going to be 3, 10, 23, 26, 27, 29, 30.

Proper analysis:

Once in Lightroom I took a closer look at the 30 images and saw things that I hadn’t noticed before. Firstly, there is a distracting thin white stripe in the black top in many of the first half of the set. Secondly, in images 19-21 you can see the black underside of the reflector card sneaking into the bottom of the frame (could be cropped out if needed). Thirdly, a few of what I thought were going to be the good shots (26, 29, 30) turned out to have blurry or out-of-focus portions that ruled them out.

However, one of the images that I’d remembered at the time as being a possible keeper, number 23, is indeed the one that I consider to be the single best shot of the series.

23. BEST!

23. BEST!

What I’ve learned

Broadly speaking, I do think I correctly remembered the better shots based on expression, gesture and pose – but what let me down was more the technical side of things, e.g. a few of the ones where I think I caught a good expression, the focus was off slightly – or the framing, like leaving in the white stripe or the reflector card. I put this down to using the remote trigger release and not (often enough) checking the viewfinder. On balance I think remote release is an advantage, as it allows you to get out from behind the camera and engage with the subject, but I do think I need to remember to periodically check what’s in the frame.


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Exercise: Focal length

Brief

Make exactly the same framing on a face with different focal lengths. With a zoom lens, use at least three: at either end of the zoom scale and in the middle. If you have more than one lens, use that, too. You will need to move the camera towards and away from your subject to keep the framing consistent.

Results

Subject: this is long-suffering wife and reluctant model Ann.

I’ve converted the focal lengths into 35 mm equivalent, as my camera works to a 1.5x crop factor. If you’re peeking at the EXIF data, yes I have rounded up a couple of the numbers for neatness.

24 mm Equivalent Focal Length:

Way too wide for a normal portrait, this has the distorted ‘back of a spoon’ look to the nose in particular. Quite unflattering!

24 mm EFL

24 mm EFL

35 mm EFL:

Better, less obviously distorted, but still not wholly natural. Still a little bit ‘looming towards you’.

35 mm EFL

35 mm EFL

50 mm EFL:

This is the first one that looks reasonably natural to my eyes. The proportions of the facial features are quite normal.

50 mm EFL

50 mm EFL

75 mm EFL:

Of the focal lengths I tried, this is the one that is meant to be closest to the optimal one for portraits. It does look natural and flattering, so the theory is sound in my experience thus far.

75 mm EFL

75 mm EFL

100 mm EFL:

To my eyes this looks equally fine – no obvious distortion, nothing that looks too odd.

100 mm EFL

100 mm EFL

150 mm EFL:

This is where slight visual oddities started creeping in. The face shape is starting to look marginally too wide to be a true likeness. The features are starting to look flattened out.

150 mm EFL

150 mm EFL

200 mm EFL:

The flattening effect is getting more noticeable. The facial features are starting to converge on the centre of the face and the space around them is getting disproportionately broad.

200 mm EFL

200 mm EFL

345 mm EFL:

The features are flattened out to an almost comical degree here. Compared to the more optimal ‘middle’ focal lengths, this squeezes the features further into the centre of the face, and the whole face shape looks like it’s been stretched out on a rack. Very unflattering! (sorry Ann)

345 mm EFL

345 mm EFL

What I’ve learned

A great technical exercise! It’s unlikely that anyone would knowingly take portraits at the two extreme ends of the scale here as they each in their own way distort the subject’s features in a very unflattering way. It is very enlightening however, to see the extremes as they help to illustrate exactly why there are accepted standards on the ‘best’ focal lengths for portraits. Interestingly, viewing each one with the adjacent versions either side it’s hard to spot the differences – but when you look at one from each extreme, they are very different indeed.

One point of note is that I found quite a few online sources ‘correcting’ the commonly-quoted belief that it’s the focal length that causes the distortion – technically it’s the distance not the focal length…  but if you’re framing the image in the same way, that requires to you compensate with your distance from the subject, which is what causes the distortion. I recall an exercise on Art of Photography that showed that an equivalently-framed crop from a wide shot would match a telephoto shot taken from the same distance.


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Exercise: Eye contact and expression

Brief

Set up a portrait session in which the face is prominent (and so perhaps head-and-shoulders or torso), and over the course of the shooting direct your subject to, at times, look towards you and at others away. ‘Away’ can mean anything from slightly away from the camera to looking completely to one side, and you will need to give some ‘stage’ directions.

Results

Subject: this is friend and neighbour Phil. He doesn’t like having his picture taken, so I thought that made him a good subject for this exercise!

I took over 70 photos in total but shortlisted the six below that give an idea of the differences achieved. Note: references to left and right are from viewer’s viewpoint, not sitter’s.

1. Straight on:

First, a ‘looking straight at the camera’ shot. You can see that he’s not comfortable sitting for a portrait! This was from very early in the shoot, before I started giving him directions.

1. Straight on

1. Straight on

2. Eyes right:

After a few very similar head-on shots I started asking Phil to look around the room in different directions. To begin with he maintained the same overall pose and just moved his eyes, as in this shot. He still looks a little ‘posed’ but just the simple measure of asking him to break eye contact changed his expression (more quizzical) and makes for a more natural shot. I think his dislike of being photographed lessens if he’s not staring into the lens.

2. Eyes right

2. Eyes right

3. Down and left:

For this we were just chatting while I took the pictures via remote shutter, and he started relaxing. He got less self-conscious as the shoot went on (I guess this is fairly common) and as I’d moved down to his level (sitting opposite, off to one side of the tripod) it was more natural for him to look at me when we talked rather than the lens. He relaxed enough to start unconsciously gesturing with his hands, as in this shot. So the difference between this and the previous shot is that here I was just catching him changing pose and expression, not specifically directing him. The result gives a bit more character than the more posed shots.

3. Down and left

4. Slightly down:

I confess I then went back to giving stage directions… I asked him to scratch his head in an exaggerated comedy fashion, and he obliged. I did this to see if it would make him smile. It did, a bit…!

4. Slightly down

4. Slightly down

5. Turned right, eyes left:

He’d kind of settled into a pose in the chair, so towards the end of the shoot I asked him to stand up and sit back down again, as he would if he was just sitting down without a camera in his face. He chose a different position, more side-on. In this shot the stance, eye-line and expression make him look more pensive than the other shots.

5. Turned right, eyes left

5. Turned right, eyes left

6. Turned right:

This is one where I caught him talking, and I think by this point he’d forgotten that the camera was there and was just holding a normal conversation. as a result, this is one of the most natural-looking shots, and as a result probably my personally favourite. I like a portrait that gets over a little of the character of the subject, and the really ‘posed’ shots give a falsely self-conscious representation of the man, who’s very chatty and sociable, but just doesn’t like having his photograph taken!

6. Turned right

6. Turned right

What I’ve learned

Aside from a rookie technical error (wide open aperture plus manual focus meant that I lost some sharpness as he changed pose) I think this is a reasonably successful attempt at this exercise. I found this similar to the ‘active portrait’ one is as much as the more natural (and in my opinion, better) photos happened when the sitter wasn’t consciously posing, but had been sufficiently distracted into dropping their guard a little. I’ve learnt that getting out from behind the camera (using remote release) and engaging with the subject as a person, without expecting them to stare into and speak to a lens, can lead to much more naturalistic candid shots. These in turn reveal more about the sitter’s character than an overly posed photo.

I do feel like I need to slow down and make sure I’ve got the settings right before I start shooting – up until now I think I rush too much, thinking that I shouldn’t be wasting the sitter’s time. So obviously the answer is to properly prepare before engaging with the sitter – lighting, background, camera settings and so on. Every day’s a school day.