Wednesday, 13 April 2011


I mentioned a while ago that I intended to take some portraits of friends and family. Well, I have started and am using the room at the back of the garage (the room that I built), as a studio... of sorts.

I have found it quite a challenge so far. Getting the lighting right and the knife-edge between blurred and in-focus is very slight with the lens I am using. For the first time, I am shooting in RAW format and then using Photoshop Elements to edit the image, taking out skin blemishes etc.

After 9 victims, I have some mixed results.  My friends 8 year old son would not keep still so a perfectly focused shot was never going to happen.  My favourite so far is a shot I took of my niece and I have had it printed so that she can give it to my brother on his birthday in May (see below).

I have set up a new blog to show a few of the shots online - mainly so the subjects can see them without emails flying about.


  1. I'm not an expert in portraiture, but here's some thoughts: you've got some looming shadows on the backdrop and some wrinkles too. A bit more distance from the backdrop and a wider aperture may help. Alternatively, placing light(s) differently might help, or perhaps have a dedicated backdrop light to create a light patch behind the subject.

    I don't know any of the subjects as you do, so I can look at them perhaps more objectively(?) In this type of portraiture, the ones which are making eye contact with me are definitely more engaging, eg Anthony - great smile in the 2nd shot, but I prefer the 1st because of the eye contact. Looking away from the camera would work for a kind of thoughtful subject, but when their eyes and expression suggest they're looking at something in particular, then as a viewer, you feel a bit left out. That's not always the case though - Pete's Mum's expression in the first shot works really nicely.

    I like the idea of the negative space in some of the shots, but think there's too much space above the subject, given the width of the frame and positioning of the bottom of the frame relative to the body. In all of them you've got the lower edge at roughly armpit level and I feel you should drop the camera slightly. Pete's Mum looks particularly squished!

    Another suggestion is to crop/shoot the images to a different aspect ratio. I've done a couple of 4x3 crops as examples:

    The lighting generally looks ok, neither dramatic or flat, and no harsh shadows.

    My 2p worth. Hope you see this as helpful constructive criticism :)

  2. I don't know much about portraits. I do like your work though. Well done

  3. Many thanks for your feedback torchy - it will come in useful.

    Most issues that you highlight (shadows, the framing, etc) are due to the small space I am working in. Though I think I can overcome some problems with a change in the lighting and photoshop can help! The more I take, the better they should be... hopefully!

    I'm not so sure about the spacing as I quite like the size of the image and lack of cropping with the space around them.

    You are dead right about the eyes for the others - but the Niece image, looking away and shy, is how she is in real life.

  4. They only thing I would change is the shadows. If you can tone them down a bit, the pictures will look even better.

  5. Great picture of your niece - it is like a renaissance portrait. It thing it is the "distance" between subject and camera, created by the lack of eye-contact, that I especially like about that work. Her fine smile reminds me of a very famous portrait :-)