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Thursday, September 20, 2012

My First Glamour Portraits :: Self-Critique + Tracking Progress

I started going to ballet classes when I was 12 and I had this great idea to keep a "ballet journal" — I wanted to write about what I learned in every single ballet class. Not surprisingly, I never progressed beyond page 1. When I was in my 2nd year of university I held a squash racket for the first time. My boyfriend at the time (now my handsome husband ;) was the #1 squash player at our university (pretty awesome, right?! the boy has skillz!) and so naturally, I set myself a goal to beat him! I went to the squash courts everyday before Spanish class and after each practice I took notes on how I'd improved and what I was still struggling with. When I started ice skating seriously in my 3rd year of university I kept track of all my progress then too. I got such a thrill from looking through and realising that I had just accomplished something that had been impossible the week before. My point is, I am a big believer in tracking my progress as I learn something new. 

So now you'll understand when I say...of course I keep a photography journal!! It lives on my computer and I write in it after every shoot. I explain what I did, how it felt, what the people were like, a bit about their backgrounds/personalities, mistakes I made, lessons I learned etc... 

I'm slightly nervous about sharing these images with the world today since now when I look at them all I see are technical flaws (and happy memories of my early day, of course). But like I said before, it's all about tracking one's progress...so here goes!
This is Aisla (above). She was the 3rd woman I photographed and she was the 1st who wasn't a close friend of mine. (Before her, I had only photographed Rhiannon (who loves modeling) & Emily (who was such a good sport — I pretty much guilt tripped my beautiful but sporty maid-of-honour into letting me photograph before breakfast after a girly sleepover :P). Thanks Em, you're the best! 

Anyway, Aisla found me through my Gumtree Ad (advertising for everyday women to volunteer as models to help me build my portfolio). When I look at Aisla's image now, I want the crop to be different. I think it would be so much stronger if her head were nearer to the top of the frame and we saw more of her shoulder. I'd have bigger more voluptuous hair, lift the reflector higher to move the catchlight in her eyes above the pupil, and of course, chin forward & down MORE! :P
This is Aisla's big sister, Paula (above). Paula came along straight after a long day of work at the hospital. I loved hearing about her exciting stories in the ER while she had her makeup done! What a sweetie :) We were taking Aisla & Paula's portraits in my little white studio box in our rental house in St. Andrews. Now I really appreciate what a perfect space that was but at the time I felt like it was too small with windows in awkward places that made lighting very difficult for me. I was just ignorant and unfamiliar with it all. So for Aisla & Paula's shoot, I had a billion white reflectors all around me and yet I had no real sense of direction with what I was doing. But it was bright :P

For Paula, in her middle image, I would now have her look straight into the camera...at me. The fact that she is staring off to the side really makes me uncomfortable because her personality is lost. She looks more like a pretty model mannequin. The photo on the right is much better and I love her happy smile. Her pose is also too slouchy for me now. I'd like her to sit up more.

And for the second photo...I would start by making that hair much BIGGER :P I would take her hand down to her side on the wall and do the Sue Bryce "teapot" (bent elbow, hand beside the bum, flat arm against the wall - body tipping slightly towards the camera) or swap arms and have her put the opposite arm up to the opposite shoulder. I've realised that I really don't like the front arm to be lifted up in front of the body — I think it looks really odd and creates an obstacle in between the woman and the camera/viewer. 

We finished off our evening shoot (we started hair/makeup at 6pm & shot from 7-8pm) with a sister shot. These two beautiful ladies need some BIGGER Hair!!! I let the hair fall flat in these images. I would have them more upright with space in between their faces. I just think it looks strange how their faces are smudged together and I would crop the whole thing different. Too much white space for my liking now — at the time of course...I thought this photo was the bee's knees! :P 

And of course, we must finish on a positive and ironic note. This final photo: directly after their shoot I didn't like this photo. I thought it was too tightly cropped. I've since changed my mind. I actually kinda like it now :) I suppose I'd say it was my best shot from this first shoot.

Now, these were "the best" images from Aisla & Paula's shoot and trust me, you don't want to see the rest — eek! Their hands are making claws, their body language is uncomfortable & unnatural, and their faces are pretty, of course, but slightly blank & expressionless because I wasn't focusing on drawing any personality out of them.

I'm so grateful that we all have the opportunity to learn, grow & improve with every new day!
So bring on the mistakes! A.K.A. Lessons :P