Why you are doing this assignment
People who were well off used to pay artists to paint their portraits. However, within a few decades after the 1826 invention of the photographic process, many less affluent people could suddenly afford to have portraits made. Photographers even began to put painters out of work. We all still take portraits, but like oil painting, creating a powerful portrait is an art, a skill that must be mastered.
How to do this assignment
Standing fairly close to your subjects, take a roll of upper-body portraits that include the face and hands. You might need to give instructions to your subjects, to ask them to face in a certain direction, or to hold their hands in a certain way. As always, apply what you have learned in previous assignments.
- Use the vertical format for portraits
- Wait for the ideal cloudy-bright lighting situation. Remember that you still need soft highlights and soft shadows.
- Take about three shots of each person, and aim for about seven different people or at least seven different poses. In other words, do not just take the same shot 25 times.
- In some shots have your subjects looking at you, and in some others, looking elsewhere. Think of shooting in profile rather than head-on.
- Vary your shooting angle. In some shots, squat down and shoot up, and in others, shoot from a higher position.
- Make sure that light is striking the front of the face, not the back of the head.
What to shoot
You have already had many opportunities to photograph your friends. For this assignment, photograph somebody over 60. Ideally, photograph several people over 60.
Photograph single individuals, unless there is an obvious reason to put two people together in the same shot. (mother/daughter, husband/wife, etc.)
What should be in your folder
As always, put the most recent roll on the top. In your folder:
- An analysis sheet of your one best image. The analysis sheet should always be the first page of the folder, so that I know what assignment I am looking at.
- A contact sheet with at least 20 visible images related to the assignment, and with the two best images circled. Use a non-black sharpie.
- Two 5X7 prints* of your two best images. Mount the prints with tape loops on plain white paper so that the tape does not show. Punch holes in the paper, not the prints.
*NOTE: Beginning with the second quarter of each semester, turn in two prints that are a full sheet, 8X10 inches. Depending on where the semester breaks, you might be asked to turn in full-sized prints on this assignment. Iʻll announce it but if you are unsure, be sure to ask.
What your assignment should look like
Aim for a contact sheet that contains
- At least 20 visible images, with the best two images circled
- At least 7 different subjects, all portraits of older folks
Try to create images that
- Look as sharp as possible, with no camera shake. Be sure to shoot at 1/125th sec. and above.
- Do not always show someone grinning with a generic “camera face” smile.
- Have simple backgrounds that do not compete with the main subject
- With subjects sharp and the backgrounds out of focus. (hint: Take this roll with as wide-open an aperture as you can. We’ll go over in class why this is a good idea.)
- Show a sense of timing, show that you have thought about your subject. There needs to be that special twinkle in the eye that draws the viewer into your image. You need to take the image at just the right split second to capture that twinkle.