Monday, 27 February 2012

Assignment Five – Update

Progress remains slow, but it looks as though March will be an active month in the context of this assignment, and might even see it close to completion.  This note is just to pull together a few developments.

·         I made the decision earlier in the year to keep things simple.  In the first shoot, I did experiment with some different poses but came to the conclusion that a straightforward ‘facing the camera’ style was the way to go.  It fits with, for example, the Martin Parr Oxfam examples that I referred to earlier; it fits with what I saw in the Taylor Wessing portrait exhibition; and it takes away one of the variables when dealing with the subjects during a shoot.  As it happens, it’s also the approach that I like best, personally, so I’m not going to worry further about that but just stick to the simple approach.

·         I did, briefly, experiment with the idea of using Google Streetview as a source for the background in the images.  The attractions were a) it could give me complete flexibility of ‘place’ or ‘context’ and b) it could introduce an element of true/false/real/unreal into the narrative and a further question in the mind of the viewer.  I had a go at a self-portrait, with a Newsbook that I kept when I was around 5-6 years old, superimposed onto a Streetview image of the school where I made it.  This was the best version of the outcome.

It took a bit of planning.  I’m kneeling on the floor, in front of a black background, in order to try and get the camera angle somewhere close to that in the Streetview image; and getting the right lighting balance between me and the background, even to this standard, took some doing.  (I’ve aimed at something resembling fill-in flash that would have isolated me from the more distant background, had I actually stood in front of the school.)  It isn’t right – though I’m quietly pleased to have got it this far!  But, as a few people intimated when I shared this will the OCA Flickr group, it is a step too far at this stage – back to the ‘keep it simple’ principle.

·         I have now completed two shoots, and I have enough volunteers in place to complete the assignment, when I can get further sessions organised.  I’m expecting that to be done by the end of March or very early in April.  In an earlier post, I used one of the images from the first shoot to trial the image/text combination, and I expressed some dissatisfaction with the image.  Having looked again at some others from the session, I think this one is certainly usable – less flattering as a portrait, perhaps, but potentially as interesting, if not more so.

This is my chosen image from the second session.

·         The earlier experiment with image and text together suggested that the text needs to be shorter rather than longer – more like 50 words than 100 – which gives me good guidelines for the final format.

It is now just a case of completing six more of shoots, hopefully within the next 4-5 weeks.

Edit 29-02-12

Following Clive's very kind & helpful input in the comments, I've done some minor 'tweaking' in PS, with these results.

I havn't changed them dramatically, but I can certainly see an improvement - more in the originals than in the small versions on here, I'd say.


  1. Looking good Stan. The one you've chosen from the car shoot is more effective than the original choice I think.

    Ultimately I think they could both do with a bit of tweaking in PS.

    In the car shot the light source, as opposed to the light, is reflecting off of him, weakening the shadows and giving a rather blown flarey effect.

    It's analogous to photographing a dark grey perspex table top, looking down on it from a 45 degree angle; if you side light it you see dark grey. But if you back light it at the opposite angle then you see a reflection of light, not dark grey perspex.

    That's what's happening here, you can particularly see it in the fronts of the toys as they're more reflective.

    Since it's weakening your shadows the answer is to beef them up again to ameliorate the effect.

    Select the figure then decrease the gamma by visual inspection. Since the effect is more obvious in the fronts of the toys you may then wish to select those independently and reduce their gamma some more.

    In the final image because of the similar colours and the low light contrast the head is rather recessive compared to the cardigan and the toys.

    Select the head and neck and bring the contrast level up to marry more with the contrast in the cardigan and toys. As a further refinement you could tweak the background to give it a bit more life.

    Both images could also benefit from a touch of sharpening.

  2. Many thanks, Clive, your support & advice is much appreciated. I had already done quite a bit of 'tweaking' with both images, as it happens, but I've taken on board what you suggest and added new versions as an edit to the post. The only thing I havn't done is make any further adjustments to the background in the second image. I had deliberately taken that down because, in the original version, there was so little to distinguish the figure from the background.
    Thanks, again

  3. Yes I think that's better; when I tried it out I was a little more radical, but not by much.