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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Informing Contexts – Work Evaluation – Harley Quinn Shoot

Intent of shoot – Using a non-model, I set out to produce images with a cinematic feel. The shoot was planned to produce images with an element of humour. I chose to use the character Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad due to the age of the subject I was going to use. My mood board for the shoot is below.


Figure 1: hannahefay. Harley Quinn Mood Board

Subject – The subject was my friend’s grand-daughter.  The aim was to give the subject confidence and to have fun.  She is a non model and this was to be her first time in front of camera

Aesthetic – The intended aesthetic was a high key image that is both punchy and bright, with an upbeat and humorous narrative.

My brief to the subject was to have fun in front of the camera and play with shapes and facial expressions.

Techniques –


Figure 2: Sutherst 2017

The lighting was set up as shown.

A large octagonal softbox was used as the main light – this was adjusted to give a soft and even light across the front of the subject.

The main light position was adjusted to eliminate shadows and reduce the contrast across the image.

I also set up 2 medium softboxes behind the subject which reduced shadows on the backdrop and added some depth to the subject.

The images were shot in RAW on a Nikon d810 set at ISO64, 1/160 and f8.  These settings allow me ultimate flexibility and allow more options for getting the most out of the images in Lightroom or Photoshop after the shoot.  My intent was to get the shot in camera and not have to do too much post-processing to achieve the effect.

Personal evaluation of images – 

In a forum discussion, a fellow student commented that they really like the aspects of performance seen in the images.  They went on to state that “the idea of getting the viewer to escape, and the facial expressions of the character gives the images a cinematic effect.”

At the start of the shoot, the subject was self-conscious and needed direction. However, as the shoot progressed her confidence grew and in the images I have included here, she needed very little guidance or direction from me – she knew what the theme and intent were and she worked to achieve that brief.

To increase the impact of the images, I increased the clarity of the image and added a darker vignette to the edge of the images.  Whilst the visual weight of the image is definitely centred around the subject, I feel that there is a lack of depth and interest in the image as a whole.  The images would benefit from a background in keeping with those used in several of the Harley Quinn images above.  To resolve this, I intend to shoot graffiti that I could Photoshop into the images.

Figures 3 and 4: Sutherst 2017

After these initial images, I shot an additional set with backdrop.  I chose a graffiti backdrop similar to ones seen in the moodboard images.  When reviewing these images on the computer after the shoot, I felt that the backdrop in the first image is too saturated with colour.  This makes the image a little confusing to me as a viewer.  The background is too distracting and the subject  and props do not stand out enough.  My eyes do not know where I should be looking.

20-12-16 - Kenzie -1118

Figure 5: Sutherst 2017

To overcome this, I edited the images in Photoshop and changed the opacity of the background to 50%.  I have then placed a solid white background layer behind this to give a softer backgrounds. The visual weight of the image is now more centred with the subject’s face and the props.  However, I am still not entirely convinced the resulting images match my intent.  The background needs to have areas that need to be punchier.  The colour range in the background is also skewed and it needs both wall and graffiti showing.  I intend to achieve this with using my own backdrops and images as opposed to a pre-manufactured backdrop.

Figures 6 and 7: Sutherst 2017


On inspection, I also find that there is too much light falling on the subject in the right hand side of the images.  I will look to adjust this in Photoshop as part of the next stage of processing.  I have also made plans to shoot some more images and will re-position the lights behind the subject to account for this.

In general, these images are quite successful in that I have been able to produce images that could, as a viewer stated to me, “be seen on a promotional movie poster” or as another felt could be “seen in the centre of a fashion magazine”. There is still work to be done on experimenting with the lighting intensity and positioning to maximise the in-camera effect.  I have also planned some shoots on location (as long as the good old British weather holds up!).

Moving forwards, I will be revisiting the ideas of the shoot to create further cinematic images.

Following the shoot, I have used my practice to inform my research and I looked for a photographer who works in a cinematic way in their practice.  Tim Wong is a fashion photographer based in Hong Kong.  His images have a strong cinematic influence.  He uses rich colour and a strong composition, along with interesting sets to create narratives that offer the viewer a myriad of interpretations. Tim Wong moodboard below. His work is bold and bright with an upbeat feel. Looking at Wong’s images has given me new impetus and an appreciation of where my work may fit in this complex medium.

Figures 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12: Tim Wong 2017


Figure 1: hannahefay. Harley Quinn Mood Board. From Polyvore. (2017). Harley Quinn Mood Board. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 March 2017].

Figures 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12: Tim Wong 2017. From (2017). Wong Tim – portfolio. [online] Available at: [Accessed13 March. 2017].

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