Daily Photo – Brigitte in Thought

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

Brigitte poses for a studio shot last November.


  • Shutter:  1/250
  • Aperture:  f/1.4
  • ISO:  50
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
  • Lighting:  Zeus head in 60″ softlighter above camera right;  second bare zeus head on white backdrop;  4? x 8? foamcore as reflector camera left.

Composition and Processing

  • I often like to amp the exposure beyond what’s necessary for the shot.  While it tends to remove a lot of information, particularly skin texture, it also simplifies the image and removes distractions.  The image is thus reduced to it’s most basic elements, usually the only relevant parts of the composition.  One of my early mentors in game design used to say a good design is measured more by what you take out (or leave out) than what you put in.  This photo, like many of my shots, was composed and processed with that in mind.
  • A typical portrait shoot for me involves about a dozen compositions, 10 – 20 shots apiece.  Some of that is tweaking the pose and lighting, but at least half the images are variations in expression.  This particular sequence was ten shots:  first with Brigitte’s head tilted up with the mouth barely cracked (head was too pointy at that angle);  then with the chin and gaze down, mouth closed (too somber);  finally with the chin down only slightly and the head barely tipped back away from the camera, with the expression changed to a more thoughtful look.  Each expression along the way was a very subtle derivation of the one before.  I think it’s good to have some sense of direction when you start, but by leaving the constraints a little loose, you can explore with the subject until you find something that works.


April 04 2009 07:20 pm | Photography

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