Point Of View, Speedlights, Etc

One of my favorite quotes from a photographer. Actually a photographer that has remained in my personal top 5 favorites since my 20's. I mentioned this a few posts ago but it's worth repeating in this context.

Now to consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk. Such rules and laws are deduced from the accomplished fact; they are the products of reflection. Edward Westton

Yesterday Carly and I messed around for a bit making some crapy pictures. Most of the time was actually me thinking through how I was going to do a 10 things you can do with a single speedlight mini-workshop rather than actually making pictures. That's how I tend to roll when I am in a space and need to get my somewhat bizarre set of thoughts to coalesce into something remotely coherent. If I don't spend the time thinking about it in the space there's a good chance it's not going to be at all intelligible when I go to actually communicate to other people.

After I had done most of my thinking… a slow and circuitous process - I made some easy garden variety head shots. Not the most challenging thing. To make it a bit more interesting I decided to explore some variations in point of view. Things that might violate the rules. Not big rules - more little things that quite possibly may be true in a general sense but are absolutely not the case for every single subject. I thought this might interest those of you that liked the last point of view post as well as provide some striking contrasts compared to the angle of view and framing I used there.

In the last case I was using a relatively wide angle of view. A 35mm equivalent which tends to exaggerate what may seem like minor position and camera angle movements. Here I happened to be using a Nikon 105mm f/2 DC. As you will see even with a long-ish lens point of view variations are still very distinct. Truth is it's more about how close you are to the subject than the focal length itself but that's a discussion for another day.

In the little comp at the top I pulled a few of the dozen shots I made. Every one has a minor variation in point of view. They also have minor variations in lighting pattern. I didn't move more than a few inches for any of them. The light was your typical out of control largish umbrella and a speedlight. The light didn't move more than a foot. I did kick it back a bit with my right foot at one point to get a steeper angle.

So my position and the light all within a foot for the representative shots at the top. What does that get us. Well it gets us three lighting pattern variations - rembrandt, loop, and modified loop or whatever that might be called that now. It also gets us three variations within those lighting patterns - short lighting (shooting from the shadow side), broad lighting (shooting from the highlight side), and the third with no real bias either way. Within those we also get a point of view above eye level, at eye level, and below.

I haven't shown every single combination, just samples from one end to the other of each. All those variations within a foot. The thing I didn't change much was framing. Completely different images, with completely different feel for each. Most of that variation was based on me moving with in a 1 foot by 1 foot box and Carly moving her head a few inches at my direction. The right foot kick of the light stand was near the end to give me a more "Rembrandt-y pattern" than a "Loop-y" pattern. I could have just as easily moved myself and Carly a hair vs. kicking the light stand back a bit. I haven't kicked anything lately so I thought that was more appropriate.

Do they all work? I don't know - possibly. They're okay for quick and dirty work. Which one do I like the best out of the bunch? That will probably change the next time I look. I can assure you if I ask 5 different people I will likely get 4 or 5 different answers.

Where does the "rule" part come in? I am not going to repeat all of them - maybe it's better if you don't have any preconceived biases if your brain isn't pre-polluted. I'll just summarize with this; there are lots and lots of "rules" that tend to govern what kind of faces you should and should not use a particular point of view, short or broad lighting, various lighting patterns on etc. Long skinny facial proportions work "best" this way - rounder faces work better this other way, etc, etc, etc.

Guess what - all of those things absolutely have nothing to do with an actual person in front of your camera. Nothing. They are wild generalizations that might be true but on the whole are not worth much. Certainly they are nowhere near trumping what you actually see. To be blunt if you take them all and attempt to rigorously apply them based on an intellectual evaluation of your subject instead of using your what you actually see they will not serve you at all. Example - what if you intellectually determine that your subject has two completely conflicting "things" that "should be handled in a two conflicting ways? Use your eyes. Explore your subject. Try things - not just as some asinine exercise in breaking rules that's really not that productive. Sure do that too but not with someone else's rules - do it by breaking your own habits and biases that you see building up over time.

I certainly have my own rules(biases). One of them happens to be my overwhelming preference for short lighting. I shoot against the light to one degree or another as my go-to preference. Don't know exactly why - possibly because my personal favorite images I have made as well as the ones I gravitate towards made by others are probably skewed that way. Doesn't mean every image needs to be treated that way. So sure I will on-purpose break that bias with intent when I find myself doing only that thing.

Exploration of your subject is not always - actually very seldom - wild variations. In many cases it't relatively tiny things. A few inches here, a few inches there.


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