Assignment 1 : A Portrait

People and Place : Part One

 Assignment 1 : A portrait

I remember at the beginning of People & Place writing that I didn’t feel that portraits were ‘me’.  I’m still not sure about this but do now feel somewhat more confident.  I enjoyed the whole process of reviewing and selecting images.  In the previous post I wrote that I had selected 16 out of an initial selection of 34,

I had had hopes of the other horse shots but decided they weren’t good enough for ‘portrait’.  A dark horse in sunlight creates exposure problems, plus, as Matt was preoccupied with the horse, you couldn’t see his face.

Choice of final selection were:-

16 contacts to choose from

From these I chose numbers 1, 10, 15, 22, 30, 31 and 34(when I emailed the contact sheet to Matt his preference was 1, 7, 10, 11, 15, 21 and 29 whereas my husband’s preference was 2, 6, 7, 11, 17, 21, 25, which just goes to show!).

7 Portrait images

(Original number from 34 initially selected also given in brackets)

No. 1 (1)

f/8:  1/20:  ISO 1600: 32 mm zoom @ distance 5.2mm

A full length portrait of Matt at 11am in an environment he loves – with two of his horses, in the stable on a very bright and sunny day. It was gloomy inside despite the light streaming through the windows so I compromised with the exposure, using centre-weighted average,  and did adjustments in PS and with Nik software. I didn’t want to use flash as I didn’t want to spook the horses. The black horse is Ties and Matt is training him in dressage using the Spanish method. Ties is very large (Matt is around 6’2” so you can see the scale) and, to be honest, I didn’t want to get too near to him even though he’s quite friendly. The other horse is Goliath.

No. 2 (10)

f/5: 1/125 : ISO 200: 53mm zoom @ 5.4m

A torso shot on the Common on a bright day towards mid-afternoon. It was shady in the wooded area and  I metered centre-weighted average. I wanted the dof to be sufficient so that he didn’t disappear into the trees. He is looking at me rather quizzically with his head angled slightly to the side.

No. 3 (15)

f5.6 : 1/40 : ISO 200 61mm zoom at 2.6m.

I metered using centre-weighted average again. Smiling this time with direct eye gaze, although slightly sideways in posture. There is some shadow on his face from his cap brim and I did use ‘dodge’ to lighten this in PS. I could have used flash but chose not too.

No. 4 (22)


f/10 : 1/200 : ISO 400 : 78mm zoom @ 2.4m

I wanted to try a more somber, contemplative shot where it was darker in the trees. I used in-camera flash to brighten his face slightly, which did produce some shine.  Well – it is a little more broody which isn’t that easy with Matt because he has an open face, is generally cheerful and smiles a lot.

No. 5 (30)

Using fixed f/8 Holga lens on Canon 500D. ISO 400: 1/13.

I was keen to try my Holga lens for portraiture and took several photographs. Here he is seated in the conservatory, looking at his ipad (after another horse to buy). I’ve learned from experience that the light needs to be coming from behind the camera and I spot-metered on his face for the exposure. This could have been better on a tripod but he kept moving around from chair to chair due to the amount of light and sitting so that the window frame appeared straight out of his head. I therefore had to catch him at the right moment, without trying his patience too much.

No. 6(34)

Holga lens again. I wanted to include his wedding ring and watch, as part of his persona, so asked him to raise his hand, at which he put his hand over his eyes! I’m including it because it’s another style of portraiture, using a Holga lens,  and it appeals to me.

No. 7 (31)

f/6.3 : 1/30 : ISO 400 : 31mm zoom @ 2.4m

In the kitchen where it was more shady.  I like reflection shots and wanted to try it for a portrait so took several and gave myself a choice of two from the final 16. I chose this one because he is looking straight at me, whereas the relfection gives a sideways posture. I spot-metered on his reflection because I wasn’t sure what effect the mirror might have.


I was lucky to have a patient, main subject (most of the time) who gave me time to experiment.  I have to acknowledge that at the start of Part One I’d regarded portraits as rather a chore but actually enjoyed the sessions much more than I’d expected.  Although my leaning is still more towards people in their environment, rather than portraiture, I certainly feel a little more confident and am looking forward to the workshop on lighting. Looking at them again I’m now thinking that maybe I didn’t choose enough variety of posture, but there are the beginnings of different styles which I could develop. I had thought of black and white conversion and did attempt some.  No. 7 worked quite well because it contains more tones, but the others much less so.

I realise that I’m at the beginning of a portrait journey as this is new to me and will post more on my blog as the Course continues and I develop more of a style with which I feel comfortable.

2nd June 2012

4 thoughts on “Assignment 1 : A Portrait

  1. Hey Catherine—it really sounds like you are beginning to enjoy the portraiture—and as far as I am concerned ‘portraiture’ can be environmental—so all is good for you!! Know you are looking forward to that lighting course and will get loads from it!!

  2. Hi Catherine,
    I’m interested in environmental portraiture too, and because of that I like the first image the most, where Matt is in the stable with the two horses.
    It must be quite hard to find a subject patient enough and willing enough to help you with this. My wife would get bored in no time and just wander off : – )
    Not having read the brief for assignment, I’m not altogether sure what the requirements are for this, but the set you have produced above shows Matt in different surroundings and circumstances. Is that part of the brief?

    As always, it was informative and easy to understand and I enjoyed reading it!

    • Hi Barry (I knew who you were even with a different name!). I certainly find environmental portraiture the most interesting because I like to see people in context. In summary, the brief was to create between 5 and 7 different portraits, taking one person as subject, which should differ in type and style. I was also going on some advice on the Flickr forum (p. 39 on the cup of coffee stream).
      At present I’m in process of completing my response to the feedback I got on this assignment, which gave me much food for thought.

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