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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Informing Contexts – Work Evaluation – Female Portrait Shots

The images here were shot in a church hall with natural light and an on-camera flash fitted with a honeycomb grid (figures 1, 2, 4 and 5) or a ring diffuser (figure 3).

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Figure 1: Sutherst 2017

Figure 1 was shot against a white backdrop, but no light was falling on it so it appears grey.  This allows the subject to be defined clearly against the background and she appears 3-dimensional.

The positioning of the subject’s arms allow the viewer to appreciate the beauty of her tattoo and it also frames the shot.

The subject had asked specifically for a couple of portraits were she “looked feminine and normal”.  In many of her shoots, the subject portrays a character and she wanted something real.

“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”

– Susan Sontag (1984: 15)

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Figure 2: Sutherst 2017

Figure 2 was also shot against a white backdrop; again the backdrop appears grey due to the lighting used.

I angled the subject this time to create more definition across her face.  There is also more definition across the top of her body too.  the image was shot at eye level to make sure that the perspective was correct and not distorted.  This has caused a few highlight spots on her face, but they do not detract from the overall pleasing nature of the image.

The shoulder could have been more forward.  At the moment, the position of the shoulder makes her look broader than she is.  The position of her hair behind her shoulder frames her face well.

Post process toning and clarity adjustments have added to the subtly of the portrait.  It is understated and simple, unlike the majority of my practice.

These images are a true likeness of the subject and not what I would normally shoot.  She was not performing for the camera, but was just being herself.  The subject (and her mum) is very pleased with both of these shots.

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Figure 3: Sutherst 2017

Figure 3 was shot against a black backdrop, using a ring diffuser on my flash.  Whilst this diffuser makes for interesting catch lights in the eyes, the overall effect is too flat.  There are no shadows on the face and the overall lighting effect is too bright. The detail of her hair accessories are almost lost against the darkness of the background.


Post processing into monochrome has done little to overcome the brightness issue, but has removed some intensity from her lips (which were red).  The composition of the image is striking and her hair frames the face well.  The hair adds interest and the curls are well lit.

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Figure 4: Sutherst 2017

Figure 4 was shot against a wooden door.  The subject is defined clearly against the background and she appears 3-dimensional.


The cheeky pose is very representative of the subject’s personality and we spent a lot of the time in this shoot laughing.  The light is bright and the white of her dress is too dominant in the image.  It has more visual weight that I had intended it to and the eyes are drawn to her chest, which was certainly not the intent.


The honeycomb grid does a good job of directing the light so that the edges of the image appear darker. This is intentional as I wanted the viewer to be focussing on the subject and not the background. This has been successful in that regard.

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Figure 5: Sutherst 2017

Figure 5 is a different to the other 4 images in this blog post, in that the image was not planned.  It was a serendipitous moment.

The subject was working with another photographer and they were setting up lights ready for a shoot.  At the moment I took this, the photographer was talking a less experienced photographer through how to light this portrait.  The subject was taking part in the conversation.  I chanced this shot because it reminded me of an actor in a stage production.  The beauty dish of the other photographer acts like a spotlight on the subject.  The honeycomb grid on my flash directed the light so it looks like the subject is lit by the spot light.

There is only the one image like this.  I did not take any other shots as the other photographers started to shoot and the moment was gone.

I really like this image.  Compositionally, the visual weight is all centred around the subject.  The image looks staged as the subject was getting ready for her shoot with others.   There is a lot to be said for always being prepared to take a shot.


Susan Sontag, 1984. On Photography. Edition. Penguin Books, Limited (UK).

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