Task 5 – The Empowered Portrait.

Through the first four workshops you have explored the power relationship between photographer and subject, starting with yourself before looking at someone close to you and a stranger. You should now apply your skills garnered through these and the technical workshops to assist either a stranger or someone you already know* to make their own portrait.

You should not take charge of the photographic conversation but should empower the ‘subject’ in being able to make their own pre-visualization and chosen representation, a reality.

*You should not work with someone who has previous photographic experience.

For this task, I decided to work with my flat mate Charlotte as I am comfortable with her and know her quite well. As a journalism student, she has worked with cameras very briefly however only on automatic settings. At first, when I first asked Charlotte about the task I felt she had a few hesitations, mainly about herself being in the photograph however by the end of the task I was pleasantly surprised by her response.

I began by asking her what sort of set up she wanted to use, and within the space we were in she identified just a plain wall that she wanted to use as a back drop. I then briefly explained aperture and shutter speed, and how to use these in terms of light. She then set up the tripod by herself. To get herself used to the camera, she asked that I could be the model while she worked with various settings. After a few shots, I also suggested changing the ISO due to the poor light in my bedroom. Once Charlotte got used to changing the settings, I asked how she wanted to set up her shot. She had obviously been thinking about the task beforehand as she had quite a strong opinion on what she wanted to produce which I found surprising, yet pleasing that she was so keen. We moved the set up into the corner of the room, and Charlotte was confident altering the tripod and with experimenting. As she wanted to create quite a dark image, she decided to limit the light. At first Charlotte wanted to use flash, but I recommended using my small lamp first. It was hard to gain a balance between trying to help without suggesting too much. After seeing what it looked like with the lamp, she then tried the flash alone however this didn’t work how she had imagined so we went back to using the lamp.



Charlotte was confident in experimenting with where to place the light, as well as asking me to move and pose how she would imagine herself in the shot. After a few initial shots, I recommended a tighter crop as this is my personal preference. Charlotte often looked to me for my thoughts and opinions, even though she still had quite a strong opinion in what she wanted to achieve. At some points, she felt maybe the image she wanted to create was too ambitious for her first time with a camera.





After working with a few shots with myself, she decided to put herself into the frame to see if she liked how it looked. Charlotte used the self timer on the camera in order to take the self portrait.


This was the first shot that she produced but she felt that her hair over her face was too messy, and also wanted to crop her legs out of the image. At this point I began to realise she is quite a perfectionist! She decided she wanted to stick with this angle and lighting so that it could capture her hair as she feels it is one of her best features.


With this image, we both loved how the light captured her hair. However, we both felt there wasn’t something right and wanted to recreate the shot. After numerous attempts, Charlotte couldn’t capture it in exactly the same way. After reviewing the images she had taken together, Charlotte wanted to go back and try another ‘pose’. I am also glad that she chose to do this because Charlotte was able to capture a brilliant image that we were both pleased with. In terms of post production, Charlotte initially wanted to change the image to black and white, however after seeing what this looked like with my assistance in Photoshop we both agreed that the definition of the light in her hair was lost.


I am extremely pleased with how Charlotte’s self portrait turned out. For someone who hasn’t used a camera in this way before, she was brilliantly confident and experimental. Although there were times where I had a few suggestions, I also found it quite easy to sit back and let her make her own decisions and guide her a little when required. I was also surprised at how comfortable I felt being a model for her to help her compose her shot before putting herself in the frame. Usually a photographer doesn’t feel so comfortable being infront of the camera, however in this situation I didn’t feel so vulnerable. This may be down to how comfortable we are as friends, or me wanting to be able to help Charlotte create the image exactly how she wanted. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this task by being able to share something I am so passionate about with somebody else. I also loved how Charlotte fully involved herself in the task and think she produced a great image for a first attempt.


~ by victoriasimkissphotography on February 12, 2014.

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