During a recent visit to Ayutthaya’s new Floating Market I noticed a pretty young lady sitting with her mother.  We were there for a workshop and I’m always trying to increase the awareness of my clients so they learn to see, to notice their surroundings, in the hope it helps create more and better compositions.  In this particular case I noticed the very nice lighting hitting this pretty face.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS  @F4  1/200th  200mm   ISO 200

 

During a recent visit to Ayutthaya’s new Floating Market I noticed a pretty young lady sitting with her mother.  We were there for a workshop and I’m always trying to increase the awareness of my clients so they learn to see, to notice their surroundings, in the hope it helps create more and better compositions.  In this particular case I noticed the very nice lighting hitting this pretty face.

 

You see, our eyes being human eyes normally see about 15-17 stops of light.  This means from the darkest to the brightest lights in a scene, we see 15-17 stops.  Our cameras only see 5-7 stops maximum.  There are all kinds of techniques we can use to help expand this range, from bracketing our shots for careful Photoshop layering and blending to automated HDR with hand tone-mapping.  But the point I was trying to make, was that our eyes seeing such a wide range, fails to notice the subtle nuances in light such as in this case.  However, the camera in a way condenses the stops, or rather it ‘exposes’ out a 5-7 stop slice of the range our eyes are seeing, and we then see a much more profound effect on the captured image.  We can train ourselves to see these differences.

 

This image is significant because it gives us a chance to talk about these subtleties and provides a visual example.  In addition this is a pretty girl with a look of concentration framing her face with delicate hands involved in the very feminine gesture of primping her hair.  The contrasts between the delicate hands and pretty face is significant, but more they work together to create a more compelling image than if she was just sitting there with her hands by her sides displaying her face only.

 

This image shows essentially the same elements, the nice lighting, a contrast between his face and the food he’s eating, and he’s approximately the same age and perhaps the same level of attractiveness.  But see how the food while interesting, in no way compares young lady’s hands?  Her hands are framing her face while imparting a feeling of femininity and beauty, here the food while adding interest, gives the image a totally different feel.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS  @F4  1/1000th  153mm  ISO 800

 

This image shows essentially the same elements, the nice lighting, a contrast between his face and the food he’s eating, and he’s approximately the same age and perhaps the same level of attractiveness.  But see how the food while interesting, in no way compares young lady’s hands?  Her hands are framing her face while imparting a feeling of femininity and beauty, here the food while adding interest, gives the image a totally different feel.

 

What would have made the male’s face seem more masculine in the same vein as the females hands made her appear more feminine?  Perhaps if he was wearing a ball cap, and he lifts up the brim with one hand while wiping his brow with the other, a distinct male gesture?  How about if he was looking over the top of his sunglasses while holding the down with one hand?  Or if he brought his hands up to his religious amulet and held it while appearing to say a small prayer?

 

These small differences help denote profound shifts in the ‘feeling’ of an environmental portrait or even a candid.  When observing what’s going on around you, try to take advantage of such opportunities.  As you observe the scene ask yourself what a subject ‘might’ do to enhance the image, and then try to anticipate that action.  We can in effect, go from passive observers, to active photographers.  Give it a try!