Best of a sequence

I wanted to be able to take my sequence of images without using any artificial light and keep the setting as simple as possible. Taken indoors with available side light from a large window. I asked my subject to sit on a stool with a backrest  which I turned around so she had somewhere to rest her arms if she wanted, but which also enabled me to keep them out of the frame. I wanted her to be as comfortable, and at ease, as possible. I decided to concentrate  on getting head/ or head and shoulder poses.  I used two lenses for this exercise a 28-75mm zoom and a 50mm prime, my tripod and cable release.

As I started to take my series of images I felt the initial ones were not particularly good, my subject (my daughter who is quite used to me taking her photograph) was trying too hard to pose, and looked stiff and ill at ease. As I took more I gave her simple instructions and  watched her facial expression  carefully before I released the shutter cable. At various stages I asked her to smile, look away, or lower her head then slowly raise her head towards me. At the time of shooting I particularly liked the images taken as she started to laugh. As the session progressed I  wanted to catch the more serious side of her personality and felt pleased with the more sober looking expressions she made. On a couple of occasions she raised her arms so they were included in the frame I am interested in seeing how they look, at the time of shooting I felt they somehow added to the image, showing her natural exuberance .

I took a total of 34 images with the 28-75 lens and 24 with the 50mm. Initially I used the zoom lens, but felt when I changed to my 50mm prime I was taking better portrait pictures. It will be interesting to see if this is so when reviewing in my browser . Thank goodness for digital cameras——impossible to take this many with film as I know from experience how many will probably be rubbish. But this does make me wonder if less is more ? Should I perhaps be more selective in what and when I take a picture ? Something to think about and consider.

It was easy to chat and made the session enjoyable, how easy it would be to direct a total strange like this I am not too sure.

 Chapter 1 About Looking  Roswell Angier, Train your gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction To Portrait Photography. Ava publishing 2007 pg5 discusses Richard Avedon’s approach “it was rumoured that Avedon did not speak to his subjects while he was shooting…….for the entire session, he would walk around the room, tethered to the camera by a long cable release, staring” . He , the photographer was “in control” creating “aggressive personal statements” and his ” subjects are hanging on to their identities by a fragile thread” .  A photographic portrait is a visual representation of an individual. How they are depicted, and therefore interpreted by the observer, is it controlled by the photographer or the subject ? The photographer can direct and suggest how they would like the subject to pose, but is the essence of an individual still visible to the casual onlooker? Something to consider.

28-75 lens  /    34 images . Review

The session seemed to end quite naturally , I knew I had captured all that I needed or would be able to catch— hopefully! The final shot taken with the zoom lens was the most relaxed shot of the sequence as she rested her face on her chin.

18 images ——–not good

5  images———acceptable

8 images——- good

My initial reaction on reviewing these images was dismay——-I felt the vast majority were simply awful. It  seemed such a simple exercise but looking at some of the facial expressions I  caught I felt a total failure. As I suspected the first few images were not really good , and were certainly not how I wanted to portray my subject . Furthermore I had misjudged the lighting , she had dark shadows on one side of her face, because of how I positioned her. Something to remember in future: a reflector would certainly have improved this. I do not mind shadows , they create character and depth, but for these images the light did little to enhance the type of portrait I was trying to create. Thinking about the learning curve I feel  perhaps I rushed this exercise rather than  waiting longer between each individual frame  that I shot. However I was  able to see the considerable different facial expressions that occur quite naturally, and  often rapidly. Furthermore I rarely direct  my subject to pose in a certain way, I think this possibly creates a more frank portrayal. Perhaps my directions created the dissatisfaction I feel with this session? I  like the spontaneity of the images taken at the family party, the images from this session seemed contrived in comparison.

From 34 images 18 were not really good, this surprised me as I felt I had captured more acceptable than poor images. As I thought at the time of shooting my favourite few images were those that had captured her laughing. Interestingly I thought  the poses that included her arms in the frame might be acceptable, but I did not particularly like them.  Is this because of my preference for tightly composed images ??  I do like the final image in this first sequence , which does include  her hands, but this is a tight composition . One particular image was a disappointment when reviewing in the browser, I had asked her to put her head to one side and look straight into the camera lens, her facial expression was exactly what I was trying to capture, but I miscalculated the framing and chopped half her head off—–not a good look! I  also managed to get what looked like a prison mug shot at one stage, or her eyes closed in others. Its amazing the amount of different facial expressions that can be captured of an individual , and how each of these will create a different representation of that person.

Favourite image——–the final one of the session with the 28–70 lens. At the time of taking this I felt the pose and her relaxed smile were more representative of her personality, and was pleased with the outcome when reviewing the sequence.Her face is probably a bit overexposed on the one side.

F3.5              1/30         70mm            ISO 400       Custom WB



Review 50mm lens /  24 images

All    F2.5          1/50           ISO 250  Custom WB

3 deleted immediately …too awful to even consider keeping to review !

21 left to review

7……………………………….not good

4……………………………….not too bad but not really acceptable


7……………………………….better / possibly even good

Some of the images were not acceptable because of the large aperture I used , both her eyes were not always sharply focused enough.

I felt I had managed to capture  a more varied range of facial expressions than with my zoom lens and saw no need to continue. I knew I would be unable to gain any more from continuing with the session. + my daughter/ model was getting rather restless, and started to pull stupid faces at me—–I’m sure professional models are far more restrained !!! This highlights a problem of using my family—-my images are not objective. I can’t help being emotionally involved with my subject, something Richard Avedon was not. Is it possible to be free of bias when reviewing my images, am I looking for only the more flattering images of my family? I try not too but it is difficult sometimes not to be subjective .

Using a fixed focal lens stops me from being lazy and using the zoom to frame the composition. I took a total of 24 images for this session. I felt I was taking better pictures whilst shooting, and reviewing in the browser I could see that I had managed to get the good range varied expressions I felt I had at the time of shooting. This said, I deleted 3 images immediately: totally rubbish! This  left me with 21 to review more fully. Again I was annoyed to find that quite a few were not really good, more than I had anticipated.

First 4 images badly framed !!! Head too low in frame with chin chopped off. My fault entirely, and I am annoyed with myself for not rechecking my framing . I  caught her raising her one eyebrow, a habit of hers, and hoped at the time it was one of the better images, I was pleased to see on reviewing it was. When she was laughing at the time of shooting I took about three frames of which I felt these were the ones that would be the better images. They are all in my final 7 .I have found it difficult this time to choose my favourite, I have two very different images that I like, but decided to choose the one I feel , through  gesture and pose,   best shows her bubbly personality.

 Gesture and pose present visual clues,  by asking “his subjects to remain expressionless and look straight at the camera”  Thomas Ruff  explores how a “lack of visual triggers, such as gesture, confound our expectations of discovering a person’s character through their appearance” pg 106 Charlotte Cotton,  The photograph as contemporary art  ,  new edition, Thames & Hudson, London 2009. Chapter 3 Deadpan discusses the objectivity and impartiality of this type of photography , the opposite of what I attemted in my sequence.


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