I have been enjoying experimenting with Photoshop, creating something different, more than just enhancing features on the photograph, creating digital art by adding extra textures and elements.

This part of the course is about reality and intervention, whether a photograph should be kept as close to the original – as seen at the time of releasing the shutter –  or could the image be elevated by changing colours, tones, textures in order to perfect the composition. Personally I think it will depend on the purpose of the photograph, where and what will it be used. Lately I have been doing many portrait shoots, where I would generally perfect the skin but keeping its natural texture, for example I remove blemishes, scars or hair if it’s in the eyes or somewhere it is distracting from the image, but I would only soften moles, bags/wrinkles under and around the eyes to keep it realistic and natural, I would never fully remove them which would quite likely alter the face. This is for the purpose of selling to the client in forms of prints to hang on the wall or digital images to share on social media or sending to model agencies. The key here is to perfect but keep it not too perfect to stay on the realistic ground.

For the purpose of this assignment, I had to go beyond this, manipulating in a way that would make the image successful as a cover.

I loved the idea shooting for something specific that later on in the editing process will look its best, adding a little magic will make all the difference! Speaking of magic, I decided to shoot with kids, little girls dressed up as fairies, and a boy who had a Harry Potter outfit as well as the perfect hair! I tried to pose and light them with the finished image in my head, what will I add to the image to create the desired effect.

Thinking about potential book cover, I was debating between a fairy tale book or a Harry Potter cover with a little twist. I settled with the latter.

Final Image

hpcover

The original image was with a plain grey-green background with Toby posing dressed up as Harry with a large soft box placed on his left quite high up, head point downwards.

Will post all original images and elements I used for this cover, unfortunately I edited on a different computer which I don’t have access to until Wednesday.

First thing I added was the sparkles which was on a black background, I pulled into Photoshop, changed the blending mode to screen which got rid of the black and only the sparkles left, I resized and twisted it to get the right direction and masked out the unwanted parts like between fingers as it was covering his thumb as well as the whole arm so I got rid of it creating a more “realistic” 3D effect.

Next step was sorting out the background as it was a plain wall and I knew I needed some sort of brick texture to make it more “Hogwarts like”. After importing the wall image as a layer, I only lowered the opacity and again, masked out the unwanted parts as it was covering the boy’s face and body.

Luckily I found all these textures for free, as well as the Harry Potter font which was surprising but I had lots of fun styling it to make it look like a real book cover, adding different textures to the text and placing them carefully.

I was thinking for a long time what would be the book about, I had everyday magic in mind but couldn’t work out how to work this into the title and then suddenly it’s just clicked… It would be truly magical having zero hour workweeks! Is it imaginary or not? Of course, everything is possible…

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Recently I heard a professional photographer using this phrase, “blinded by styling”  as she referred to a portrait, where there was so much going on, but made it to be published in a magazine anyway even though it wasn’t necessarily well composed or lit. When I was planning this assignment, these words were replaying in my head but in sense of colour is being distracting sometimes, or even when that particular composition looks well in colour, it conveys a different story when it’s processed into a black and white image.

Taking the advantage of working in a studio access to all equipment, I decided to experiment with portraits again, as well as high and low key photography. I always shoot in RAW format in colour, never really thought about switching to black and white in camera so for the sake of this assignment I did.

Final Images

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Tonal contrast – The only image I shot on location, I am obsessed with shadow patterns, loved how the sunlight hits her face through the hat, definitely worked better in black and white, surroundings were too distracting in colour. Natural light only.

Lewis_0006

Tonal contrast – Almost the complete opposite of the first image, the background and her jumper are almost the same colour, only different textures, but it really makes her stand out more especially in black and white, such beautiful freckles. Only one large soft box been used, fairly close to the model and the wall.

Lewis_0036

Texture – While this works well in colour, I prefer the black and white again as colour isn’t distracting, love how the different textures work well together (chunky knit jumper, brick wall against a soft facial expression. Same 150 cm soft box but almost 90 degrees to the right of the model facing away from the background.

Sienna_0038

Texture – I loved the fairy tale look created by soft curtains, curly hair and her expression, prefer black and white as the bright orange brick would have been too distracting, but as a texture it’s a nice contrasting element. 150cm soft box placed approx 45 degrees to the right of the model and above.

Sienna_0009

High key – One of my first attempts to achieve this look, not sure if I’ve done correctly, large soft box placed right next to me, relatively far away from the model shooting on higher power to get a more even light, there are small shadows around the right bottom of the image showing that I placed the light a bit too high. Prefer in black and white again giving, I think it adds to a feel of innocence. 

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High key – Second attempt, I think looks much better, I placed the light directly in front of the model raising to same height as the models face and there is me standing in the middle of it as you can see it in her eyes. Her skin was very tanned so it was pretty much dominating the image, but in black and white the attention draws straight to the eyes. 

Sienna_0077

Low key – I love how this turned out, although I love it in colour, I think being monochromatic just adds so much more drama to the image. I loved the fact that I was able to create it with the same light I used for the previous images, the only thing I did differently was placing only the edge of the soft box towards the face of the model, although it was facing directly towards her, only small amount was actually hitting her body as the rest was passing right in front of her. 

Sienna_0113

Low key – Similar set up again but this time I used a 70cm soft box placed higher above her head but facing it the same way as before, and I also added a grid for more control achieving no light spill. I love this look and again, definitely more dramatic than a colour version.

Reflection

I really enjoyed playing with light differently than I did before, also trying to see in black and white and it was interesting to see why certain images just wouldn’t work as well in colour as it does in black and white and how the story changes simply just by taking away colour. I love the dramatic feel of monochrome and how certain qualities appeal and how focus shifts.

Michael Freeman: The Photographer’s Eye

I found this book very helpful to gain understanding of the basics, even though I already used most of it probably unconsciously, and I also read about them online like the golden ratio and rule of thirds, it helped me clarify and organise my existing knowledge which made me feel more confident. I understood and kept reminding me the importance of eye travelling in a certain pattern across the image when it’s well composed.  I found “diagonal tension” exciting, creating tension and sense of movement in a still image; how to frame the subject – even framing within the frame – or reworking the photograph by stitching, extending or cropping; or when to fill the frame and where to place the subject. I have read many different articles online about the the golden section proportions, the Fibonacci divisions before taking this course, how it appears to be everywhere, from plant to animal and human proportions, but it was still fascinating when I read about it in this book.

Learning to create interesting images with contrasts, different obvious shapes and implied ones were challenging but also very interesting, how our eyes translates the image for us it’s just fascinating. When I looked at a photograph I could obviously tell if I liked it or not but not necessarily know why, as I learned our eyes seek for balance and symmetry, these compositions are pleasing. I found it hard to achieve a good silhouette composition such as the “Burmese Monk” , it has to have a message to convey of course, otherwise it just looks like a badly exposed image. What I did like is rhythm and patterns, filling the frame with similar patterns or organising them in a certain order is very entertaining. Finding the right angle for my portraits is one of my weaknesses, I could be over thinking but I never truly satisfied with the results, but I found useful information for landscapes and street photography.

I think this book is a great beginner’s guide in a digestible form or a visual reminder for self taught photographers like myself before taking this course, I definitely got lot more confidence, and perhaps better eye for composition too.

 

 

Charlotte Cotton: The Photograph as Contemporary Art

I really enjoyed this book, it was refreshing to read something unexpected and provoking. I was looking forward to read each chapter as they have been divided into groups of photographers who share similar ideas and motivation, it is fascinating to read about how other people think and create.

The first chapter is about the stereotypical photographers trying to capture daily moments challenging the question “If This Is Art” or just every day documentary photography. I loved Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s idea setting up a flash on a scaffold in New York letting people to trigger as they walk by creating portraits unconsciously, or creating food art like Sophie CalIe,  or be daring like Gillian Wearing and ask strangers to write something about themselves on a piece of paper, I would like to come up with ideas like these.

The second chapter is about storytelling within the contemporary art category, looks like something just happened organically but in reality, it has been carefully staged and composed. This is what I have been trying to do with self portraiture, but creating something captivating from an everyday looking event is quite challenging,  this chapter was perfect for inspiration though.

The third chapter is about deadpan photography, as the name suggests, there is no expression or mood, the subject is simply exists on the photograph. This isn’t something I was particularly interested in, it feels sad and depressed to me even though it doesn’t meant to have any feel to it.

The forth chapter is about simply things, everyday objects made interested and quirky, I really enjoyed looking at these images and working out how it was done, also a realisation to appreciate everything around us as we often take things granted.

 

I haven’t finished this one just yet as I have been struggling to get free time while working almost every day, I found it extremely motivating so far, a real eye opener to different perspectives, almost like looking into these artist’s mind.

Seeing like the camera sees the scene, and the ability to create images exactly how I saw them is exciting. I noticed that the eye creates a less contrasty image, while the camera’s sensor tend to exaggerate the differences between light and dark, the human eye’s dynamic range is just incredible.

For this assignment I needed to choose four different high-contrast situations and see how the camera will render these scenes, the aim is to produce higher quality images which will need less post-processing, in fact for this particular task I had to shoot in JPEG format and post the images straight out of camera without any adjustments.

Street scenes

Street scene (1 of 3)  Street scene (1 of 3) histogram

Street scene (2 of 3) Street scene (2 of 3) histogram

Street scene (3 of 3) Street scene (3 of 3) histogram

I tried to shoot with different metering modes, f stops and shutter speeds and see what happens, I kept the ISO low as it was already bright with the sun out, and used small aperture with slower shutter speed to get more details in the shadows. I usually shoot with evaluative metering mode as I like to choose the focus point, I took a picture with each of the other metering modes; spot, partial, center-weighted average as well, and I didn’t notice much difference while I kept the focus point the same. All three images turned out only a little darker in the shadows than it appeared to my eye at the time, the bright areas were pretty much spot on.

I feel like I have to experiment more of this in the future, changing the focal point (if I can) to achieve the same result. I don’t usually shoot in these harsh conditions as it’s never a flattering light on anyone but I suppose there are scenes where it works, indoor spaces for example.

Indoor spaces

Indoor space (1 of 3) Indoor space (1 of 3) histogramIndoor space (2 of 3) Indoor space (2 of 3) histogramIndoor space (3 of 3) Indoor space (3 of 3) histogram

This is pretty much the opposite to the first situation where it was overall bright with dark areas, indoors will always be darker, and having a relatively small light source such a window will make the camera struggle to get a good exposure.

I actually liked these images being so contrasty, however I tried to get as much details in the shadows as possible. The first one I found to be a little dark compare to the actual scene, I should have done that less contrasty but I’m happy with the second, and the third is a bit bright, as the focal point was on the bride, non of the metering modes did a good job determine the exposure, they pretty much looked the same.

People in shade

People in shade (1 of 3) People in shade (1 of 3) histogram

People in shade (2 of 3) People in shade (2 of 3) histogram

People in shade (3 of 3) People in shade (3 of 3) histogram

Primary focus was to expose the image correctly to the faces but of course, needed to get the overall exposure right too. I usually turn on the highlight clipping function in camera so I see if there is a part of the image overexposed but of course, I forgot this time resulting the first and second image having a tiny patch overexposed, however overall they are pretty close to what I saw on the day. The second is maybe a little dark on the face, I could have added some fill flash to brighten it up but then, it wouldn’t look as natural as it was. The best of all three is probably the last one, probably because there is no sky in the background, but the midday sun still makes the trees and pebbles bright. The bride and bridesmaids are standing under arch which just beautifully softened the harsh light.

Landscapes in low-angle incident light

Low angle light landscapes (1 of 3) Low angle light landscapes (1 of 3) histogram

Low angle light landscapes (2 of 3) Low angle light landscapes (2 of 3) histogram

Low angle light landscapes (3 of 3) Low angle light landscapes (3 of 3) histogram

Incident light is the light that falls on a subject, whether it comes from a direct or indirect source. In this case it is coming from the sun directly. The first image was the most challenging of all as the sky was just too bright, a little hazy as the see was just right behind the mountains, I was struggling to bring back the shaded areas without blowing the sky out completely, this is the closest I could get to what I saw. I could probably done it better by changing the composition allowing less sky, less bright light. The second one was a lot easier to achieve as the sun was really close to the horizon, giving contrasty landscape but well exposed sky, the last, London landscape turned out the best I think, clouds are just making the job easier for the camera.

Reflection

I think for the best result, need to avoid harsh sunlight unless that’s the look to aim for.  I prefer interesting lighting situations over low contrast, dull lighting such as an overcast day can provide. I’m not sure if I used the metering options properly with the focusing areas as non of them made magical difference, I definitely need to do more research.

For this last assignment I was advised by my tutor to create a story about a model shoot as it aligns my interest and it’s the quickest options since I’ve been working a lot. One of the reasons I’ve been busy so lately it’s because I got an apprenticeship in a photo studio, but I also have my other job resulting me working every single day. Being on a tight schedule didn’t leave me other choice but to record a day in the studio when apprentice Gary and I have a practice shoot. Luckily the boss said yes, Stephanie was pretty good at posing unconsciously.

Final Images

 

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Stephanie is thinking about the concept of the practice shoot, what she will expect from us.

assignment5-2

Sarah is getting ready.

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Gary is chilled as usual, waiting for the model to be ready.

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Steph is setting up for us, she’s determining the correct exposure by using a light meter.

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Steph starts shooting, she explains what to look for when you’re directing a model.

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Steph is talking about looking through the viewfinder helps to pose the model, you have to see through the lens how it will look.

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It’s my turn, shot this using one small softbox. I just love how the light wraps around her, obsessed with the cheekbones!

assignment5-8

The model changed outfit and Steph is showing a different light setup now using two strip softboxes.

assignment5-9

Steph is demonstrating the different looks she can create with these two lights.

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Watching Gary taking his turn on practicing, Steph also decided to take some “behind the scenes” shots.

assignment5-11

Steph is showing how she got to this pose starting with a very simple one.

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My turn again, this is one of the last images I finished the shoot with, although it’s a simple pose, it took me a while to get to this.

 

Reflection

I wanted to include more details about the getting ready part for the shoot but as I also needed to work, I had to concentrate on what I wanted to shoot with the model as well, not just my assignment, so I couldn’t quite do it the way I planned. I’m not sure how I did with this assignment but I will make sure I put things right before the final assessment.

 

Feedback and Reflection

Please find my tutor’s report here.

I am still struggling to find time as I have been working long days with only one day off per week, I have been ill too as a result of working too much, I’m changing job soon so hopefully I only have one instead of three and will have free time too. My tutor said given the tight deadline I have done very well, the B&W images or rather dark grey and light grey tones add interest and it is appropriate for a photographic studio where there is a lot of black and white. Learning from my mistakes from the previous assignments, I wanted to make sure I create a story line and a certain feel to these series of images, but they are also working on their own. My tutor liked the first three images being particularly successful in conveying something of the character of the people. Probably the first time I actually felt happy about the series of images I produced, I feel I’m making progress and I am more exciting than ever!

Update:

I’m pleased to say that I am a photographer apprentice now which is perfect and I’m over the moon, however the pay isn’t brilliant just yet so I continue to work in catering resulting working nearly every day again…  I love working in the studio and they did say they want me full time which will happen soon, they will also provide support for my studies which is even better, finally I will have only one job and will be able to spend more time on studies as well. It is all going in the right direction now.

Update:

I’m very frustrated that I couldn’t finish all my exercises for this course, there are also many books left to read, however I feel I understood what have been asked for each assignments and completed as best as I could in the given circumstances. I genuinely wanted to do the best job I can possibly do despite of language barriers and lack of free time. I think I progressed so much since I started this course in terms of composing an image as well as writing in English, I am determined to finish Digital Photographic Practice and People and Place module side by side this year completing every single task and assignment.

I got confused how the assessment dates work as I have received three possible dates in an email not realising I have to make the first or the second, I tried to apply for extension for the third assessment due to work commitments and ongoing mental health problems but it was rejected just 5 days before the final assessment deadline. I don’t want to seem like I making excuses, I have been struggling for a long time now on my own, hopefully all this will be taken into consideration as well. Thank you.

 

For this assignment my tutor suggested couple things, firstly that my subject should be three dimensional, should have an area of colour, need to have an area of texture which isn’t shiny like chrome surfaces. Although he suggested that I don’t need to be creative for this, I decided to go with portraits of an actual person in different light situations rather than a boring still life composition.

Planning and research

Yes, I wrote it down properly this time and actually followed the plan, which was to create 8 photographs depicting shape, form, texture and colour.

Shape

I planned to photograph my subject against a dark background while she’s illuminated from the back, just like Philip-Lorca diCorcia [1] did with one of the images of the Heads series when he placed a flash above people and as they were walking pass on the street, he pressed the shutter. For daylight situation I was thinking I could create the inverse version of this, very light background with underexposed subject creating a black silhouette.

Form

Another way of showing the shape of the subject is using light and shadows to create three dimensional effect. I had two locations in mind; one is a coffee shop or restaurant with large windows, shooting the subject from outside including some foreground element, the subject is in focus lit by soft light coming from above, and show some detail in the background, creating a layered composition, similar to William Eggleston’s [2] Untitled image from 1970 of a kid bicycle; and an open field an hour before sunset using the golden hour light as a backdrop for a backlit portrait, filling some shadows with a reflector.

Texture

The quality of the surface detail, such as skin. To be able to show most of the skin detail, I was planning to shoot in harsh light conditions beware of overexposing the image. As diCorcia’s [3] other image from the Heads series, the idea is to shoot in daylight (or in his case it was a flash from above) against a dark background and the sun is only hitting one side of the face from above resulting harsh shadow on the other side of the face or the light is directly above the head creating very unflattering shadows under the eyes and nose. A different way to show texture is to shoot the subject under harsh light but there is something else between the light source and the subject causing interesting shadows, patterns and textures, I was inspired by this photograph  Light and shadow by Arseniy Semyonov.

Colour

To show true colour quality, the subject should be evenly lit, my idea is to shoot in the golden hour again but this time the subject is facing into the light, since it is coming from the side, there are no shadows just even golden light on the face. A good example I found is Thomas Ruff’s passport like Portrait [4] even though it wasn’t taken outside, he created a nice, almost completely even and warm light. Another idea is to shoot on an overcast day when the sky is a giant soft box, distributing light evenly, also using cloudy white balance setting is ideal as the skin would look blueish otherwise. Joel Sternfeld [5] and Jitka Hanzlova [6] photographs of strangers were probably taken on a cloudy day too as there are only tiny shadows around the subjects’ faces.

In terms of unusual and attractive lighting, I was thinking to add a flash or a battery operated LED light to add interest to the images, hopefully I will have the time to play with them.

Final images

Shape

1-shape-1

I managed to create only the inverse version of what I originally planned, however it didn’t quite turned out the way I wanted, It was a very cloudy day so there wasn’t any harsh light coming in so I processed into a black and white image to strengthen contrast.

Form
2-form-1-of-2

I was close to put this image into the previous section but I think the model isn’t isolated enough from the dark background, but she is lit from the side, the composition has the foreground element, the background out of focus, there is also a reflection of a man where the model is gazing adding more depth and interest to the photograph.

2-form-2-of-2

Golden hour portrait as planned, the sun is illuminating the model’s hair, I used a gold reflector on the right side to fill some shadows and creating highlights, giving dimensions to the face.

2-form-3

Similar set up but this time the sun is on the left side highlighting the hair, shadows on the right slightly filled with a gold reflector.

Texture

 

3-texture-1
3-texture-3

It was a cloudy day so there was no chance for harsh sunlight, but bringing the model closer to the window and shooting from above is a recipe for highlighting skin imperfections.

Colour

4-colour-1

This time the model is facing to the sun, I didn’t use reflector so I’m not sure why the face and the neck is warmer the shoulder and hand, could be make up or tan, I didn’t notice it at the time of the shoot, could it be the fact that this kind of flat light is showing the true colour of the skin? I hope that’s the case.

4-colour-2

The last image was taken in a shaded area, I exposed for the model’s face using shade white balance setting. It was fairly good straight out of camera, I only made small adjustments to achieve the closest match to her skin colour.

Reflection

Sadly we didn’t have time to play with different lights, I really wanted to try to shoot through some lace materials to create patterns on the face or create something similar to Arseniy Semyonov’s photograph, but there was no direct sun, we were lucky to get about 15 minutes of it before sunset. All in all I enjoyed preparing for this assignment the best so far, it really does make a difference when there is a clearly written plan to follow. I feel I gained better understanding of the light behavior, I particularly enjoyed shooting through a large window creating interesting reflections and incorporating these into my compositions.

[1] Charlotte Cotton – The photograph as contemporary art, page 20.

[2] Charlotte Cotton – The photograph as contemporary art, page 11.

[3] Charlotte Cotton – The photograph as contemporary art, page 46.

[4] Charlotte Cotton – The photograph as contemporary art, page 106.

[5] Charlotte Cotton – The photograph as contemporary art, page 108.

[6] Charlotte Cotton – The photograph as contemporary art, page 109.

 

Feedback and Reflection

Please find my tutor’s report here.

I didn’t choose the best subject for this assignment but I wanted to continue working with people as this is the area i’m aiming for, my tutor appreciated the fact that I didn’t have much gear to work with either, I could have taken an easier route but I wanted to follow my interest and progress in portrait photography. The research is improving every time, I still need to add a Research and Reflection page which I will do once I wrote articles to publish about the books I have read so far. I love to read and I’m really enjoying the books, sadly I had to start them many times as over time I have forgotten even though I took notes, just too much time passed as still struggling because of my work commitments.