Environmental portraits

Started Oct 5, 2006 | Discussions
Baris Contributing Member • Posts: 602
Environmental portraits

I´m impressed by portrait work from people like Alec Soth. Here´s a sample from his website ( http://www.alecsoth.com/ )

What kind of lighting would I need for shots like these. Simple flash bounced from the ceiling? Reflectors? What daytime would be best for this kind of shots concerning ambient light?

Thanks in advance people!

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joe053 Regular Member • Posts: 329
Ah...................yeah............n/t

MrScott Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: Environmental portraits

Hahaha - that hair job reminds me of the Grizwald Christmas tree. I'm just waiting for something to bust out of there and jump into the tree on her lap!

Seriously though, what do you notice about the lighting?

She's less than 8" from the wall, where's the shadow of her hair do'?
Where's the shadow line between the shirt and skirt?
What about the chin or shirt wrinkles?

Here's the real kicker, do you see any reflections or shadows in the picture on her lap? What about the bottom portion of the frame, is it the same brightness as the opposing side of the picture frame? Are the sides even from left to right? Is the frame flat or does it look to be at an angle?

On the wall is the brightness even from the top to the bottom - left to right?

SiriusDoggy
SiriusDoggy Contributing Member • Posts: 996
Re: Environmental portraits

MrScott wrote:

Hahaha - that hair job reminds me of the Grizwald Christmas tree.
I'm just waiting for something to bust out of there and jump into
the tree on her lap!

Seriously though, what do you notice about the lighting?

She's less than 8" from the wall, where's the shadow of her hair do'?
Where's the shadow line between the shirt and skirt?
What about the chin or shirt wrinkles?

Here's the real kicker, do you see any reflections or shadows in
the picture on her lap? What about the bottom portion of the
frame, is it the same brightness as the opposing side of the
picture frame? Are the sides even from left to right? Is the
frame flat or does it look to be at an angle?

On the wall is the brightness even from the top to the bottom -
left to right?

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...............................................................

In other words.. it looks like there was no special lighting used at all. Just the normal overhead room light. Not very flattering at all. Nothing special to me.

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Mark A. Small
Mark A. Small Contributing Member • Posts: 611
Re: Environmental portraits

personally i like your image. I think it should be cropped so that it is a vertical image instead of a square one. Taking off the sides enhances the subject.

as for lighting - it depends what you want to achieve. I kind of like what you have.

Mark
--
http://www.markandrewimages.com

dogwood Veteran Member • Posts: 3,458
uuuhhhh...

... I don't think it's the OP's image. Least that's what he says in his post. But yeah, it looks like ambiant light to me too.
--
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Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Re: uuuhhhh...

dogwood wrote:

... I don't think it's the OP's image. Least that's what he says
in his post. But yeah, it looks like ambiant light to me too.

Ambient, or possibly narrow beam bounce of the ceiling nearly directly over her head.

Either way, I too am one of those that do not think it is much to write home about. I suppose I can see it as part of a series that gains overall credibility from being consistantly "nothing much" -- you know, sort of "anti art".
--
Regards,
Baz

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Jimsokay Contributing Member • Posts: 832
Re: Environmental portraits
1

Baris wrote:

I´m impressed by portrait work from people like Alec Soth. Here´s a
sample from his website ( http://www.alecsoth.com/ )

What kind of lighting would I need for shots like these. Simple
flash bounced from the ceiling? Reflectors? What daytime would be
best for this kind of shots concerning ambient light?

Baris,
His work is interesting. Interesting and very good.

It's not so much how you would light the subject, but how would you find the mood.

He's not all caught up in the "details". What he is doing is capturing things to make one think. If one is looking for "all around perfection" he is telling you to go away and to come back later. He knows all "the rules" and is breaking them at just about every opportunity.

Regarding lighting. My bet is that most is existing lighting, dragged shutter to pick up more ambient light, a tripod. The only caveat is that he's so good, he could be throwing complex lighting in there just to make it look simple.

If you are drawn to his style don't try to replicate it, but try to understand it, what there is about his work that speaks to you. Then simply apply your style and over time it will come to you.

Jim

Kent Johnson Veteran Member • Posts: 5,354
Geez, people, let's try a little harder
1

Art is about intent as much as anything else. Yes, boys and girls, this is most certainly one of Andy's images:

"Bonnie (with a photograph of an angel), Port Gibson, Mississippi 2000"

Ooooh, the title adds something , doesn't it? If you don't understand or can't articulate what he is trying to say (or your problem with it) then just say that, don't betray your ignorance with a lame comment or neandertal grunt. Tell us in detail what about the image, with title intact, leaves you so unimpressed. Don't just dismiss out of hand what you can't grasp in 2 seconds. This is not network television, it's photography.

The man has something to say and he's saying it. I only wish more of us were able to do the same thing.

To the OP, lighting is what it is and serves fully the purpose of the photographer in this case.
Peace,
-Kent

Paul Amyes
Paul Amyes Senior Member • Posts: 1,818
Re: Environmental portraits

Soth's work is interesting in many ways, but to me the fact that he uses large format cameras (10x8 if memory serves me right) and colour neg film gives the work a subtlty that cannot be achieved with other mediums. I don't think he uses anything but available light. Wonderful stuff, I really liked his Niagra and Missippi series.

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OP Baris Contributing Member • Posts: 602
Re: Environmental portraits

The only caveat is that he's so good, he could be throwing complex lighting in there just to make it look simple.

Thats what I had in mind...

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Joe Peoples Senior Member • Posts: 2,437
A sincere request...

Kent Johnson wrote:

Art is about intent as much as anything else. Yes, boys and girls,
this is most certainly one of Andy's images:

"Bonnie (with a photograph of an angel), Port Gibson, Mississippi
2000"
Ooooh, the title adds something , doesn't it? If you don't
understand or can't articulate what he is trying to say (or your
problem with it) then just say that, don't betray your ignorance
with a lame comment or neandertal grunt. Tell us in detail what
about the image, with title intact, leaves you so unimpressed.
Don't just dismiss out of hand what you can't grasp in 2 seconds.

This is not network television, it's photography.> The man has something to say and he's saying it. I only wish more
of us were able to do the same thing.
To the OP, lighting is what it is and serves fully the purpose of
the photographer in this case.
Peace,
-Kent

Joe Peoples writes:

Can you articulate exactly what it is about this image that impresses you? You claim he "has something to say and he's saying it". What have you gathered about the message the photographer is attempting to convey?

OP Baris Contributing Member • Posts: 602
Re: A sincere request...

Can you articulate exactly what it is about this image that impresses you? You claim he "has something to say and he's saying it". What have you gathered about the message the photographer is attempting to convey?

This picture is part of a series "Sleeping by the mississippi" and it shouldnt be judged like a one-shot. Alec Soth takes photography on a storytelling level and this, once you´re finding your way into it, is way more interesting than purely decorative photography of flowers, dogs, landscapes (...) most amateurs are in for. However, everybody to his own. Reminds me of Cartier-Bresson: »The world is going to pieces, and people like Adams and Weston are photographing rocks!«

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MrScott Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: A sincere request...

Baris wrote:

This picture is part of a series "Sleeping by the mississippi" and
it shouldnt be judged like a one-shot. Alec Soth takes photography
on a storytelling level and this, once you´re finding your way into
it, is way more interesting than purely decorative photography of
flowers, dogs, landscapes (...) most amateurs are in for. However,
everybody to his own. Reminds me of Cartier-Bresson: »The world is
going to pieces, and people like Adams and Weston are photographing
rocks!«

So I found this link on the site with footnotes for each entry.
http://alecsoth.com/Mississippi-new/pages/Mississippi47.html

"
Bonnie (with a photograph of an Angel), Port Gibson, Mississippi

During the Civil War, Grant spared Port Gibson, declaring it "too beautiful to burn." Many believe that it wasn't beauty that saved Port Gibson, but the number of churches. With a population of only 1800, Port Gibson is home to eleven grand and historic churches. Faith Tabernacle Pentecostal Church is not counted among thoe eleven. The church is located in a trailer next door to the home of Brother M.C. Tyler, a former country-western singer. After a Thursday evening Bible Study, M.C. and his wife Bonnie invited me over for coffee. Bonnie read to me a passage from Revelations 21:8:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
"

Unfortunatly for me, no portion of the footnote in any way describes the photo of Bonnie on the couch. If a photo is worth 145 words, then in my opinion, this is not correctly conveyed since I dont' feel there are any religous or historical overtones.

I also noticed on that page it does mention in the first footnote that a 8x10 camera was used.

Back to a techincal point is there some kind of calculator or formula that would convert a large format camera into a known exposure for say a 35mm camera at the same ISO?

ie. would an 8x10 be able to suck in more light than a 35mm or APS-c? Would my exposure with an xt/20d/30d be 1s @ 5.6 where as the 8x10 would be 1/100 @ f22?

Thanks for the info, my only experience is developing large format prints, not taking them. I'm guessing the little bulb that exposes a 35mm negative on an 8x10 sheet of film paper is not quite the same.

Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Exposure....

MrScott wrote:

Back to a techincal point is there some kind of calculator or
formula that would convert a large format camera into a known
exposure for say a 35mm camera at the same ISO?

Yes. It is an exposure meter. Exposure meters work for all cameras.

[cameras are not "converted", as you put it, and exposure readings don't need conversion.]

ie. would an 8x10 be able to suck in more light than a 35mm or
APS-c? Would my exposure with an xt/20d/30d be 1s @ 5.6 where as
the 8x10 would be 1/100 @ f22?

All films/sensors of the same ISO need the same exposure. However, the two different camera sizes will have different ranges of apertures available. Shutter speeds are common across all cameras.

So........

If the light level and ISO requires 1s @ f/5.6 on your camera, (whatever size it is) the same is true of the 10x8".

But.....

Most 10x8 lenses are at maximum aperture around f/5.6, so it is more likely the lens would be stopped down somewhat for Depth of Field and Depth of Focus reasons, and an equivalent exposure given. At f/11, say, 4 seconds would be needed -- same as your camera would, same as any camera would, at that aperture.
--
Regards,
Baz

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christianhough Senior Member • Posts: 2,994
Poor lighting passed off as fine art...

I'm impressed with people like Bruno Bisang, Mario Testino, Rankin etc...

http://brunobisang.com

http://www.mariotestino.com

http://www.darrenpaul.com

http://www.rankin.co.uk

Poor pictures like posted just pi*ses me off. Simply snapshots with a pretentious edge. I saw exactly the same type of stuff in the Photographer Gallery in London; photographs of walls, garbage cans etc. Oh yes, don't forget to say 'I use film'. This always gets the art world boffins going.

Chris

Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Re: Poor lighting passed off as fine art...

christianhough wrote:

I'm impressed with people like Bruno Bisang, Mario Testino, Rankin
etc...

Poor pictures like posted just pi*ses me off. Simply snapshots with
a pretentious edge.

Yes. I'm inclined to agree. In fact, I feel it would have had more intrinsic value AS a snapshot, say, of a cherished family member in another family member's wallet. As it is, it is almost as if the photographer is sneering at the woman's simple faith......
....exploitative even. Shkkk!...:-(

No. I don't like it as a shot... and I don't like the pretentious idea that seems to be behind the shot.
--
Regards,
Baz

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Kent Johnson Veteran Member • Posts: 5,354
Hey Joe

I'd be happy to. First, I never said I was impressed... but I can see where you might have gotten that impression. My projection onto the work is that he is trying to say that the area surrounding the Mississippi, indeed all of America is a very strange place when captured at face value in it's native habitat. This particular women is holding a photograph of an angel which she has had framed and wishes to be photographed with, while sitting on a very nondescript couch, near walls painted with very non-descript and faded paint, in clothes and hair that were in style in 1971. Taken as part of the collection it is a very interesting part of the complete picture. He is saying that what we normally see photographed or worthy of being photographed is not normal at all, rather it is a distortion of the truth as he sees it. I could go on and on but that would be silly in this context.

Said another way that might be more accessible it reminds me of David Lynch's work in film although not as striking or refined.

That's my take, I won't insist upon it however, or deride anyone else's projection onto it.

I would agree that the lighting, while serving it's purpose, is not at all instructive or appropriate for the average reader on this forum.
-Kent

semper_fi Regular Member • Posts: 486
Re: Environmental portraits

Thanks for posting the picture and bringing Mr Soth's work to my attention.

I agree with Kent's summary of his work. I am intrigued and drawn to his MS work. I can't put my finger on it, maybe it's because I was raised in the South. (Louisiana mostly)

It seems he will be lecturing at a local college in a few weeks. I am going to do my best to attend and find out what he thinks about his work.

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Lee Kupfer Contributing Member • Posts: 634
Re: Geez, people, let's try a little harder

evidently the shooter likes dark shadows under the eyes...like's old women holding some sort of art pix...maybe she's thinking about going to heaven, or flying an ultra-light...now see...there's the art, we are discussing what photographically is a poor picture, perhaps a simple snapshot to hold for eternity...nevertheless, waaalah! We have a statement and now we can proclaim it as being art. Damn, I'm glad I'm ignorant.
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