Portraits of Kristen

Kristen’s portrait shoot was a great example of having a solid plan-b. The original idea was for an outdoor shoot in front of the historic buildings in Texas city (about an hour south east of Houston), but the rain moved in and the plan had to be scrapped.

So we got permission from Sarah, the owner of the Campeche coffee etc, to set up a few lights and a backdrop in the corner of her premises. This was perfect for simple head-shots, and with a little post-processing we got some superb full body motion shots.

We changed location for the end of the session - a laundry-mat just up the road from Campeche Coffee. It was another one-light setup to capture the movement of Kristen’s hair.

This was a hybrid digital and film session using a Hasselblad 500cm and a Canon 6D mark 2.

See more of Kristen through instagram @kristen.wollenberg.

Portraits of Sergio

I love meeting people with curly hair like mine so I can bombard them with questions on how they deal with it in the mornings and where they get it cut.

Sergio’s portrait session resulted in some great social media head shots and some full body shots that wouldn’t look out of place if he was interviewed for a magazine.

This was a hybrid film and digital session using a Hasselblad 500cm and a Canon 6D mark 2.

Using shadow barriers to anchor a viewer on your photograph

How can you hold someone's attention on a photograph? What about making barriers to stop them from leaving?

Photographs are not often studied for long periods of time by the casual viewer, but I think if you can hold someone's attention for 5 seconds rather than two, the image is somewhat victorious.

Many things can grab the viewer's attention - story, metaphor, gore, et-cetera - but in this post I'd like to talk about figuratively bouncing the viewer's eye back into the picture as it is trying to leave.

Lighting this portrait from the left, and having the sitter gaze to the left also, I’ve tried to prevent the viewer from prematurely exiting right, even if it is for a fraction of a second.

Lighting this portrait from the left, and having the sitter gaze to the left also, I’ve tried to prevent the viewer from prematurely exiting right, even if it is for a fraction of a second.

  • Light sources from camera left create shadows on the right so that the eye reads across the image and the shadow returns the eye to the left side.

  • If a person faces left, the viewer follows their gaze back across the picture. If they are facing right it is almost like the viewer can skim across the picture and has permission to exit the right side of the frame.

  • Bouncing the eye back into the picture is also the purpose of a matte in a frame - that is why wide mattes (relative to the picture) are desirable rather than simply filling the frame just with the picture. It provides a wasteland the viewer must cross to exit, and they may decide to return to the picture by force.

I find this theme interesting because it implies the direction a subject faces, and the position of the key light are not at the photographer's whim, but are best kept constant to capture the attention of a viewer. Of course, the converse is also useful - you may want a rapid flow of the viewer’s eye from the left and out over the right side of the frame.

There are plenty of examples dating back to renaissance paining. The lighting on the Mona Lisa is from the left and her eyes take you back left. Read across Caravaggio's “Calling of St Matthew” and you’ll find Jesus pointing you back left from the shadows. Those painters didn’t leave anything to chance - every minutia of the picture is intentional.

Portrait Session - Julia Fox

Julia is a Houston-based classical singer who recently sat for some portraits. We mixed dramatic low-key chiaroscuro photography with simple bright shots - all classic portrait styles. 

You can find out more about Julia on her website - www.juliafoxsoprano.com