Environmental portrait is a very challenging project. I had couple thoughts on who I could photograph, but I decided to photograph a student who is studying "Ba Complimentary Therapies". The reason for this choice is that it is a very interesting profession and also challenging. My goal was to successfully use the portable lighting equipment and the light itself combined with wide composition of details which would tell a story about the person. My scene was partially staged, I did move the table close to the window in order to catch the sunlight behind and use it as the kicker light therefore I did use my flash with shoot through umbrella as a fill light to even the exposure.
Here are other photographer's work which I came across during the research and become inspiration to my own work.
|Pastrycook, 1928 by August Sander|
|Hod-Carrier, Koln-lindenthal, 1928|
|Circus People, 1930|
|Farming Generations, 1912|
|Children Born Blind|
|Here is the example of cropping the final shot of Igor Stravinsky, 1946 | Arnold Newman|
|The final image, composed of a few strong, simple shapes, resulted from a severe cropping of this original negative.|
Here are few other portraits by Arnold Newman
|Arnold Newman, Portrait of President John F. Kennedy, 1961|
Few portraits by Gordon Parks, I really like the way in how the lighting is used. Example below reflects my favourite effect created by ambient light. It is very moody, contrasty and low key lighting makes it stand out!
|Gordon Parks, New York City, 1948|
Harlem gang leader “Red” Jackson, 17, trapped in an abandoned building by a rival gang.
|American Gothic, Washington, D.C.|
A Woman and Her Dog in Harlem, New York, May 1943 Gordon parks
Here are two contact sheets of shots which I consider as good starting point.
|Some of them are repeating, but there is retouch difference|
The hardest part of this shooting process was to constantly adjust the exposure. I tried to use the sunlight as a separation light ( kicker ), however I did not get the shot I wanted within that time window.
See the contact sheet for example.
Regards the lighting, it was pretty simple setup, the flash was used a a fill light and the correct exposure was metered for the background (sun light through the blinds).
As the colour does not look too punchy I decided to go with black and white, which works better for me.
Here are my final winners of the series.I did not emphasize on retouching. My goal was to keep it simple and more realistic.
Here are the original RAW files before retouching converted to 600kb sRGB JPEG files.
I am working only with my 3 best shots.
The lighting diagram is pretty easy. I did use camera meter to meter the ambient light. In order to capture it I had to increase the ISO sensitivity to ISO 200. I did use the light meter to adjust the flash to correct exposure and did quite few test shots to see how things are working. Then adjusted the flash output by experimenting with aperture and distance between subject and the flash itself. Closer it is to the subject more powerful it becomes vice versa. I also tried to use the flash in the fill in mode so it would determine the correct flash output automatically, although it is the fastest and easiest way it is not always the most reliable and constant therefore I did stick with full manual mode.
|The Lighting diagram.|
|I like this shot, however it is not as strong as other because the books are pointing away therefore I cannot read their labels which is an important detail to the whole story and photograph.|
|It is the same photograph as above, I did drop the saturation to achieve this effect. But it is not as good as pure black and white. And yet the composition has some downsides.|
|This is the final version of the environmental portrait. I would like to get this shot tighter but then I would start to loose important details which are telling the story and making this photograph to work at its best.|
In order to make this project more successful I could do another session and fine tuning all my mistakes I had done with the first attempt. However due to lack of time and resources I was not able to do it on time. I am happy with the final output. It was very interesting, challenging and educational project. The essence is in the communication and personal confidence. Knowing my camera was a very good advantage, but also some difficulties occurred with the constantly changing light conditions. It was much harder to achieve the optimal shot than in the studio environment. I had to keep adjusting the exposure every 10 minutes or so. Timing, preparation and anticipation were the key elements towards success. All of my photographs were edited in Adobe Lightroom.