Three club events to celebrate in this post. First up thanks go to club member Gerry Painter for the evening of how to make a people picture a portrait through posing. Our thanks to Gerry for the introduction and practical sessions after the break, a very enjoyable evening. The night before some of us visited Hanham Photographic Society and there were presentations there by our club members Chris Harvey, Alison Davies, Myk Garton, and Ian Coombs. This was an agreeable evening and we look forward to Hanham’s return visit on 12th November. Finally a welcome return to Marko Nurminen and his brief tour around just a few aspects of the revised Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop using some images supplied by club members, including Gerry Painter, which is where we came in.
The portrait is not just restricted to photography, of course, it’s an art form that predates it, drawing, painting and engraving were long the ways of committing the likeness of a person or prized animal to a two dimensional surface and still are. There is, however, a difference in our minds between what we would generally call a picture and a portrait and the difference comes with degree of anticipated artifice and convention involved. That’s how we know one when we see one. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they can only be taken in a studio, but the conventions that set out a formal portrait were the ones that meant that the subject was not moving anywhere anytime soon as the initial sketches and or being painted from life demanded that (though body doubles weren’t unheard of with the principal standing in for the face only in full length portraits).
That applied even more to the early days of photography where photographers studios were equipped with neck braces of varying heights to keep their subjects immobile whilst sufficient light was collected. Well, that and prop up the dead ones as, apparently, nearly a third of all Victorian photographs, especially early in the period, the subjects had actually pre-deceased the photograph. It wasn’t unusual for surviving relatives to be in the frame too, though they would usually be the ones standing up, I assume. Photographs were luxury items, and painting was held in higher esteem, at least by those who could afford it, though, possibly, as a mark of distinction from those who could not. Those conventions can still be seen in the rigidly narrow set of poses seen in corporate and other types of formal portraits. Gerry was after creating something a little more relaxed too. The materials are available to club members on his website www.ttassist.com (See Gerry for the Reflex password) and he particularly recommended Lindsay Adler’s materials (also blog and Facebook and check out this short video on creativity, spinning out a complete shoot from a single idea).
Light, camera, angles, props, location, environment, subjects, framing, moment. Pretty much sums up the mechanics of photography before the electronics take over. What it doesn’t cover is the relationship between photographer and subject. Posing is about creating a connection so that subject goes beyond just being that and becomes part of a conversation, part of a story, with the viewer, be that subject animal vegetable or mineral, though for our purposes, principally animal. As has been said frequently before, it doesn’t matter that that story differs between photographer, subject and viewers, but the connect is important to an image’s success. We are hard wired to react to body language, though there are cultural variations, especially over things like the acceptable degree of the body exposed and direct eye contact. About 55% of what we take from a conversation is through body language (but that’s a reassuringly round number and as such we should be sceptical of it). When the medium takes away the other 45%, as a photograph will, those aspects become more important. But light also speaks. Light and shadow affect mood, set a tone. We are all affected by colour, more often the combining of colours. These remain considerations, but it is the attitude of the body that we will take the bulk of our clues from.
And it’s quite a range of expressions that can be nonverbally expressed. The palate we get to work with is a broad one. This does not necessarily help, because there is a very important aspect yet to be considered, and that is the relationship between photographer and model. Though there are many other elements to a specific photoshoot get this basic wrong and everything else will fall apart, regardless. Concentrating on getting the basics right is a form of insurance. The pose conveys the essence of the story, the light, as we have said, the tone. There are gender differences between females and males, and again these are culturally driven and also between full length and heads and hands portraits. That doesn’t mean that the rules are rigid and unbreakable, but as with all rules, best know them and know how to work them before you go out and break them. We had a good second part of the session putting these things into practice and club thanks to the models.
Marko Nurminem showed his combination of know-how and wit to take us through another evening of post production skills. Being a professional he is a Lightroom and Photoshop expert and he took us through a couple of the tools in the updated versions (LR 6/LR CC). In particular he showed us the refined dehaze tool, which he used on more than just misty backgrounds to affect colour and tone. His mini tutorial on colour muting and boosting was also cleverly done. The things he was doing were pretty straightforward but it proves the point that to make things look easy you have to first have a degree of mastery over them and Marko comes with the added bonus that he is a good public speaker. In a second language at that.
This week we follow that up with editing in software that isn’t Photoshop……