Three Portrait Narrative – Final Images

The brief requested ambient light only, and the use of three different focal lengths to create a narrative. I wanted my images to look like they could be used in a National Geographic feature, because I like the informal familiarity of that publication’s articles. The images are close and relaxed; personal rather than editorial.

I looked at the works of photographers who have shot low-light images for National Geographic Magazine, particularly Aaron Huey and Randy Olson. I also looked at the photography used in old 1940s film noir works such as Double Indemnity (John F Seitz), and The Blue Dahlia (Lionel Lindon).

Positive Aspects
I had a composition in mind that would work with the low light to create strong shadows, and I followed that through and produced an image I was really happy with. The contrast between light and shadow, and the vertical and horizontal lines, were what I wanted. The light was very warm orange, because the only source of light was the streetlight level with our first-floor flat window.

The second image in the series was intended to be a closer shot, cutting out the window but still showing the shadows from the Venetian blinds. I achieved this, and the horizontal shadows on the wall give the image depth.

The final image in the narrative was wider than the other two, and centers Tom in our sitting room. I wanted to take a wide shot without the window, but still showing those shadows.

I was really happy with how these shots turned out, regarding composition and lighting. Having a plan and playing with the ambient light was a good way to approach the challenge, and I think I generated a coherent series of images. My editing was carefully considered, with basic retouching, optimisation, and selective adjustments in Photoshop, and I think I have framed the images well.

Areas for Improvement
By the time I shot the third image, I had improved my editing skills and my consideration of light and composition. I should have re-edited the first two images, or even re-shot them, but as my time management also needs improvement I failed to do this. The contrast in the first two images is a bit rough, and the shadows are quite severe when compared with the third image.

Evaluation of Learning
Having an idea of target audience/publication, and subsequently researching relevant photographers and their work, made this a really satisfying brief to fulfil. It would have been significantly more difficult to develop a plan without this research. I know that for other briefs I have kind of winged it, but because I had quite a tight plan for this one I am happy with the images I created. By the end of the process, I felt far more confident with my digital workflow and image processing skills.

Published by Ash Lyons Photography

Scottish photographer. I like wildlife, rugged landscapes, people, and their stories.

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