Studio Portrait

Studio Portrait

This assignment requires a little more preparation than some others: in order to do it well, you will need to take a look at chapter 10, Basic Lighting. Pay close attention to these two sections: A Basic Four-Light Setup (p.308-313) and Basic Portrait Lighting (p. 314-16). Look at the diagrams that illustrate how to arrange the lights in different ways: broad lighting, short lighting, and butterfly lighting. You will need to make some decisions as you place the lights:

1. What is the ratio between the key and fill light and how diffused are the two?
2. Does the key light come from above, head-on or from below the subject?
3. Is the key light at a 45o or a 90o angle to the subject?
4. Will you use backlighting?

• In addition to thinking of all of these technical details, you will need to think of making a good photograph. That means getting your subject(s) to feel at ease, so that the portrait doesn’t feel artificial. Look at the way your subject is holding his or her body, and try to make it seem natural, not too stiff. Similarly, try to catch him or her at just the right moment, with a facial expression that will make an interesting portrait.

• Avoid shots in which people try to look cute or silly as they pose. Those are almost never worth printing. In fact, try asking your subjects to look at the camera in a natural way, without smiling or putting on a “camera face.” Get behind the mask!

• What props would you like to include in the portrait and how would you like your subject to dress? Planning helps. If your subject is not available during our class period, I can arrange to let you use the studio after school.


Flash pictures can only be taken at one shutter speed, called the “sync” speed, short for “synchronization.” This is the only shutter speed at which the flash will trip at the exact moment when the shutter is completely open. If your pictures come out just half exposed, you used the wrong sync speed.

If your subject moves or if you move the lights, take another meter reading. Remember that you have some depth of field, but not a great deal. To have everything in focus, avoid subjects with a lot of depth. Focus at the middle point, between the closest and farthest points of your subject.

Blurred Action

Blurred Action

Blurred action can suggest a dream-like feeling that is very powerful. Photograph a moving subject so that it come out blurred, ideally someone at a sports event. This means that the subject will be out of sharp focus, but that its background will be sharp. Look at page 96 in your text to learn how to do this.

You will need to use a slow shutter speed to do this assignment, 1/30th or 1/60th second. To keep the surroundings sharp, brace your camera against something steady, like a wall or post, in order to get the background as sharp as possible – or borrow a tripod.

Don’t make everything blurry. If you are photographing a batter at a baseball game, make just the bat and ball blurry. If you photograph a basketball game, make just the hands and ball blurry. A runner at a track meet might have just the feet and arms blurry. To do this, you will need to use just the right shutter speed. Bracket your speeds. (Use different speeds so that one comes out right.)

BORING PHOTOS ARE ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN FOR THIS ASSIGNMENT. Therefore, do not photograph cars or friends you ask to run for you on Konia Field. As with all your photos, these need to communicate something about you, about the way you see the world. The need to make other people have feelings and ideas and memories, even people who do not know you.


• When you brace your camera, stop breathing and squeeze the shutter release. Don’t jerk it.

• Remember that moving (or staring) subjects need more room in front of them than behind them. We want to know where the action is going, not where is has been.

• Consider taking this assignment inside the gym where reduced light requires a slow shutter speed anyway. Use 400 ASA film if you decide to go there.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Have you ever heard this saying? It is hard to develop your own personal style in a vacuum Usually, you develop a personal, recognizable style as you react to the work of others. and either consciously or subconsciously copy that style in your own work. In fact, young artists used to learn to paint and draw by making copies of the works of the masters.
• Midkif has an excellent collection of books on photography. Go upstairs and look through the collection. Try to find a photographer whose images appeal to you and whose images wouldn’t be hard to “copy.”
• This doesn’t mean that you would make exact copies, but that you would try to make images that copy the techniques and style of the images, their “feel.”
• Along with your own images, turn in xeroxes of your book’s title page and three images from the book. For starters, look among the works of these photographers:

Paul Camponigro
Henri Cartier-Bresson
Man Ray
Ralph Eugene Meatyard
Walker Evans
Diane Arbus
Sally Mann
Sabastiao Salgado
Arthur Tess (The Dream Collector)
Lee Boltiin (Closed on Account of Death)
Heinz and Elizabeth Bertelsman (Eye of the Beholder)


• Like all of your shots, try to make these shots ones that you would like to put up on your wall, or give to your friends. Don’t produce visual Pablum.
• Compose as much as possible in the camera and as little as possible in the darkroom. If your negative needs to be enlarged, it looses both sharpness and tone, and its grain becomes more evident. Whenever possible, shoot with ASA 100 film.

Digital montage

For this assignment you do not need to actually take any new pictures! Simply reuse negatives from an earlier assignment and process them in a different way: digitally, instead of chemically. Of course, if you wish, you are welcome to take and process a roll for this assignment. Turn in one 8X10 composite or montage image, made up of “pieces” of other negatives, just like the examples I have shown you. Here are the steps:

Digital montage

• Choose two or more negatives and scan them. See below.
• Select and copy and paste one image or a part of one image onto another one. If you wish, assemble three or four images, instead of just two. In any case, the trick is careful selecting. Because every negative is different, Photoshop contains many, many ways to select. When you first do this, the image you have pasted will cover the one below it.
• Remember that Photoshop works with “layers.” This means that when you first copy and paste one image onto another, the one below will be hidden. Think of sheets of transparent acetate. Each layer is a sheet, which may be blank, if you have created a blank layer, or it may contain an image or color or other information. You can make layers visible or invisible and adjust their degree of transparency.
• Use the techniques we have looked at in class to combine the two images in an interesting way. You can:
Color parts of one of the images, so that they will stand out.
Make one image, or a part of one image, fade into another.
Apply a special effect to a part of one image, so that it stands out from the rest of the picture.
The easiest technique is to make the top layer semitransparent, so that the layer below shows through.

Whatever you choose to do, pick negatives that will “hit it off” and become good friends. The images need to work together to form a new image that doesn’t seem like two negatives thrown together for an assignment.


To scan your negatives:

• Run Epson Scan from withing the Photoshop > file > import command.

* Make sure the settings are fixed at transparency, negative, 4800 dpi, grayscale.


• The scan workflow has three stages: thumbnails (where you select which negative to scan); prescan (the large draft scan, where you set the scan area and tweak the contrast; final scan.

• Avoid all those extra features in Espon Scan such as dust removal, etc. Photoshop almost always does a better job, and by checking the buttons at the left you slow down the scan.

Movement through time

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to tell a story. Photographs capture just an instant in time. One single image can imply a story but we, the viewers, all need to fill in the details ourselves, in our own minds. In this assignment, you supply the details by making several images.

Movement through time

Do this by shooting a sequence of photos, at least four separate images. Each one captures a piece of your story at one instant; taken all together, they tell a story. Turn in at least four 5X7 prints mounted and numbered in sequence. If necessary, add captions below each photo.

What story to tell? It doesn’t need to be something dramatic. Tell a short, simple story that others can relate to. How about documenting someone’s progress in the ‘Akahi lunch line one day, or even their progress down Konia hallway on a crowded day. How about a sequence of your friend putting on makeup? Shoot four different sequences in your roll, each one with five or six frames. This gives you enough flexibility to pick the strongest sequence out of the group, and even to eliminate one frame from a sequence if it is weak.

Whatever you do, shoot with the background in mind. Make sure that it is not too busy, so that it cannot mask the main area. Shoot with a relatively wide-open aperture, such as 5.6, to help throw the background out of focus. In addition, try to select subjects and backgrounds that contrast: light against dark, dark against light. Make your main subject “pop” out of the photo.

WARNING: You might be tempted to shoot images of your friends in exaggerated, over-dramatic, just-plain-silly poses, telling just-plain-silly stories. Don’t go there. Keep it simple and dignified. Instruct your subjects to not look at the camera. That way, the sequence remains about them, not about you.


• If you use a relatively open aperture, such as 5.6, you should be able to shoot with a faster than usual shutter speed, which will help reduce any camera shake.
• Remember to turn the camera vertical when that suits the photo. When photographing people, vertical is usually best, unless you want to include more background than usual, or include other people in the photo.
• Turn people so that light hits their faces. A photo of someone with light striking the back of his or her head cannot be fixed in the darkroom.


Most of the time, we live in a man-made environment, not in the woods or at the beach.  We are surrounded by buildings, roads and “edited” places of landscaped grass, trees and shrubs.  Most of the time, we pass through our environment without seeing it.  Your job in this assignment is to help your viewer see our environment in a new way, or to point out something in it that he may not have noticed before.

Of course, to do that, you first need to see that environment in a new way yourself.  Look before you shoot!

  • Think of unusual angles as you look.  How about shooting a series of five or six frames as the world might be seen by an infant?  Your photos might remind people of how they used to look at reality.
  • Another possibility is to take advantage of all the reflective surfaces around us: windows, mirrors, car doors.  Try to capture a reflection, or even better, capture both the reflection and the thing it is reflecting.  How does the reflection change the original subject?
  • How about using a slow shutter speed to blur moving objects (people, cars) so that your photo shows the difference between things that move and things that don’t?  If you try this, be sure to brace the camera carefully, so that you don’t blur the wrong subjects.

People can appear in your shots, but not as the center of interest.  The center of interest is the man-made environment.


  • Choose the film you will need.  Film with 100 ASA is great for outdoors but 400 film works best indoors.
  • Lower ASA numbers always give better quality negatives and prints.
  • You can shoot 100 film at 50 or 200, depending on the light. Look at your developing chart  for developing times.
  • You can shoot 400 film at 800 or 1600, depending on light.  Look at your developing chart for developing times.
  • Avoid shots into the sun, with sunlight directly hitting any part of the lens.
  • Avoid shots with extremes of sun and shadows.  Film can’t see light as well as your eyes!


It’s not like it sounds!  You don’t need to find (or make) roadkill for this assignment. Instead, find some dead leaves or dead branches that look interesting and photograph them.  They could be on the ground, but also might be still attached to a bush or tree.  How about dead flowers?

Pay attention to contrast.  Leaves, branches and flowers that die turn a lighter shade that living vegetation, making interesting patterns, especially in contrast with living vegetation.  It is this contrast that is going to add interest to your image, to make it seem special, maybe even to suggest the cosmic cycle of life, death and regeneration.

Use your filter. To make the contrast even more strong, use your yellow or yellow-green filter.  Yellow or green things you photograph will come out lighter in your print.

Pay attention to repeated shapes.  If you want your image to communicate a mellow, laid-back feeling, photograph round shapes like leaves, but if you want it to communicate the uneasy feeling of a bad dream, photograph branches and sticks, hard, angular things. Or  try to contrast young shoots with old, dried things.  Whatever you photograph, try to make it communicate a feeling.

HINT: take a walk down Waonahele Rd. and out towards Puna Gate.


  • You probably want your main subject to come out sharp.  To do this, shoot at a small aperture, like f/16 (but not at the extremes: f/22 or f/2).
  •  At the same time, you will need to shoot at a high enough shutter speed so that you avoid camera shake — something above 125th second.  This means that you will need to shoot in fairly bright light, not shade.  Even at 125th second, hold the camera steady!


Look for some objects that suggest your family’s culture or religion.  If your family is predominantly Hawaiian, or Korean or Filipino, what are the objects that might serve as clues, that might give someone else a hint that this is a Hawaiian, or Korean or Filipino family?  If your family is Buddhist or Catholic or anything else, what clues suggest those roots?  Think of:

  • your house and yard
  • lichee tree?
  • ti plants?
  • rock garden?
  • clothes
  • dishes
  • pictures on the wall
  • things in a trophy case
  • books in a bookcase
  • an old photo album

It is OK to have people in some of your photos, but the people should be less important than the OBJECTS you photograph.  Look for ways to direct the viewer’s attention to those objects. This is not an assignment to make portraits of your family.


  •  Remember the patterns assignment.  Repetition is good.  Repetition of shapes helps to organize and unify a photo, as long as it isn’t carried to the point of boredom.  Every good photo walks the fine line between repetition and variety.  Make all of your photos in this class walk that line.
  • Slow shutter speeds cause fuzzy pictures.  Don’t go there!  Stay at 125th or above.
  • The best lighting comes from just one direction, like the sun or a window.


Think of how you used to look at the world as a young child.  You examined the world around you from a much closer (and lower) perspective than you do now.  This assignment asks you to try to recapture or reproduce that point of view, and maybe make others remember something of their own childhoods.

Your camera lens can photograph as close as a foot and a half.  Leave it at that distance and take an entire roll of close-up images.  Only photograph at the closest distance your lens is capable of (about 18 inches).  Think of:

  • bark textures
  • trash on the ground
  • pipes against a building
  • flowers
  • arrangements of small groups of objects
  • extremely close portraits of your friends
  • parts of bodies
  • anything else, as long as it is at the minimum distance for your lens

The photos need to visually interesting.  What makes an image interesting?  Usually this means that it  has a public meaning, in addition to the personal meaning you attach to it.  This means that strangers will find the image interesting, not just members of your family.  Something about it shows them a world they had not thought of before.  What you photograph is not nearly as important as how you photograph it.


Pay close attention to your light meter and to the way you use it.  There is no sense going to all the effort of taking a photo if it isn’t going to come out.  Your meter takes all the light that enters and averages it to a middle gray tone.  Most of the time that gives you the right exposure, but sometimes it doesn’t.   To get the most accurate meter readings, avoid using your meter when something really bright is in the photo — such as the sun or white sand at the beach.  The bright object or area can throw off the entire reading. Instead, meter something with a tone similar to the tone of your subject: a patch of concrete, your hand, a place on the ground.


When you aim your camera and press the shutter relaease, you might think you are photographing your subject.  However, to be more accurate, you are photographing the LIGHT  that falls on the subject and reflects back to your lens and film.  Think about what is happening: you are actually RECORDING LIGHT.  It’s all about LIGHT.

Do you sleep with a teddy bear or other stuffed animal? Bring him / her to school with you — or pick another object you carry around, such as your backpack. Look around for a spot with an interesting background and place your teddy bear so that it fills at least half of the frame but also reveals some of the background. Decide whether to turn the camera vertical or horizontal.

Without changing anything at all, take three images each of the same object at the same place and from the same angle at these different times of day:

  • Before homeroom
  • As close to 10 a,m. as possible
  • As close to noon as possible
  • As close to 2 p.m. as possible
  • After 4 p.m.

The point os this assignment is to notice how light changes the character of what we see.  Which time of day and which image do you prefer?

In addition to all of the above, make interesting images!


  • Choose an interesting background.  You are responsible for the WHOLE rectangle.
  • Avoid shooting into the sun, so that sunlight is hitting the glass on the front of your lens.
  • If your image has a center of interest, place it off-center, not smack in the middle of the photo.
  • Gently SQUEEZE the shutter release to minimize camera shake.