Dogwood 52: Assignment #4 "Headshot"

Some friends and I are doing the Dogwood 52 Week photography challenge. We submit a photo each week on a given "assignment" along with commentary and discussion. This week's assignment was:

[Portrait] Headshot: You shot a selfie, now shoot a "selfie" of someone else!

The submissions follow in order submitted along with the photographer's commentary. We'll add other commentary and critique from the group as it comes in.


"Modern-Day Mona Lisa"
The hardest part about working with a subject, is asking people to be your subject.  My house-mate was the 2nd person I asked to photograph.  I post-processed into B&W to bring her out more as the subject.  I can't help but feel that this is reminiscent of the mona lisa, except if she were to have a macbook.


I had three possible methods to achieve this assignment (1) I could ask a friend, (2) I could ask a stranger on the street and try to get an interesting shot, or (3) I could take candid headshots on the street. Of the three (2), was the hardest so I only managed to pull off (1) and (3) to pick through for this submission.

Semi-controlled shots with a friend are pretty easy to ask for and to perform technically. There's a big challenge in trying to get them to act natural while you're holding a camera. Shooting from the hip helps a lot and results in these "below line of sight" style shots I got of my friend Khiem.

It wasn't part of the assignment, but I think shots of people's hands up close like this can be very compelling, too. Even the mistakes are close up and personal like when I accidentally autofocused on the building behind Khiem. These are common mistakes when shooting from the hip since I like spot AF. Face detect AF probably would have prevented them, but I don't trust it much.

This last Friday, however, I decided to try to get some interesting candid shots. These are tough since I shoot with a 28mm lens on a full-frame camera—it's wide and I have to get close. Normally there's a lot of management of fear involved here and my design to be covert leads to many missed shots.

I'm shooting at night so my goal is to find good lighting and hopefully an interesting background. Identifying those things as moments for shots come and go in real time can be very hard. Additionally, night prevents zone focusing and makes from-the-hip autofocus even harder. Matrix focus becomes a must.

One final interesting aspect to report on is when you get caught. To be honest, most of the time I don't think people actually realized they were having their photo taken, but a moment's glance at the camera creates a striking image that's a little haunting and scary for me. Candid street photography is fascinating, but a little strange. It's intimate and personal in a way that city folks I think assume is forbidden in the streets and so imagining their reaction to having a shot taken is challenging to our perception. It's what makes it exciting to me.

And then finally, as with my selected shot, sometimes you just get that perfect lucky moment where lighting, subject, focus, distance, it all just lines up.


This week was a challenge. I learned that I am terrible at giving direction to my subjects. Despite that, I appreciated that this assignment pushed us to work with others. We spent a good hour or so running around campus trying different things to get a good shot that looked natural and not too forced or awkward. I like this particular shot because it captured a candid natural smile.


The C-3PO was looking lonely inside a window, but a random passerby decided to fill in for R2-D2. The neon lighting looked a lot like lightsabers and gave the scene an appropriate sci-fi-ish palette.


Confession: this photo was taken in a Waffle House entryway. When the light is good. It's good. I took advantage of having a significant other to model for me. I went in to this assignment knowing I wanted a high contrast black and white photo but finding the right balance and background was the trick. 
Zinnia: Megan, great photo. I agree, when you get that perfect lighting, it's magical. I love how intimate and close-up and this photo is. The subject is looking straight into the camera with such a natural expression that you can really feel a connection between the viewer and the subject. You mentioned trying to find the right background. I think you did a great job-- the blurry shadowy reflection really brings out the crispness of the subject.


Kento was visiting for about 1 hour so we had about 5 minutes to pick a good photo spot. Since I'm not much of a portrait photographer (yet), I was looking for interesting and colorful subjects with interesting back lighting. I like the reflective effect of the french horn and blueness of the sky at dusk. I threw in an odd angle which seems to tie in with Kento's weird facial expression. Thanks Kento :)

Camera: Google Nexus 5X (phone), 5 mm, f/2.0, 1/70 s, ISO 370


A photo story about a story
My sister and I sat down at Copley Mall after a Sunday of shopping. I whipped out my camera and told her about our assignment -- uncertain of what she should do, she grabbed a magazine and tried to casually read it. Then, I asked her to tell me a story. I really liked the sequence of her emotion and expressive hands as this story unfolds, so I thought I'd also include those shots (including some of the blurry ones).
Megan: I love how natural and relaxed this photo is.  I'm immediately at ease and feel like part of the conversation and moment.  The background colors coordinate well with the subject's outfit.  My main desire for this image would be to have the subject's right arm in the shot somehow.  Great composition and natural use of the rule of thirds.