My  workflow plan.
I aim to take a  series of portraits using  family  members as my subjects. 

Equipment  check list.
Camera (Canon  50D)  & battery pack with  fully charged batteries.
Formatted empty memory cards.
Tripod-- I use a Manfrotto 055XPROB + 804RC2 Head + Double Axis Spirit level. 
Cable release.
50mm F1.4 prime lens--a great portrait lens on my camera's cropped sensor body.
10-22mm lens--not  a portrait lens but one I enjoy using and may possibly need .
Backdrop and  stand-I have a Lasolite black velvet backdrop that I find very useful but 
incredibly difficult to collapse and fold away. 
Camera  settings: Manual settings -I will adjust as needed.  
Raw. ISO 100 or 200 maximum . One shot auto focus drive mode. Auto WB . 
Histogram and clipping warning on LCD display.

Shooting  plan.
My shooting plan timetable needs to be reasonably flexible as I need to arrange individual sessions for each model. My family live reasonably nearby so I hope to take the majority at my own home but realise this might not always be practical . Jane Bown is a photographer I really admire for her knowledge and use of natural,
not artificial, light, my preference is not to use flash for this assignment so hope I am able to use available light to my best advantage. The weather will
restrict when I am able to take any images outside, bright sky with soft cloud cover acting as a diffuser would be perfect, but again I will need to adapt as I go along. 
The British weather is notorious for being unpredictable! 
 
An important question to ask myself prior to commencing is how I want to portray my close  family members and will my presence influence their response to the camera?  They are all used to me carrying and using a camera at family gatherings  throughout the year but will the more formal set-up of tripod and backdrop
 influence their response, and hence their expected outcome, of the session? My  plan is simply to observe , wait , and not direct them to pose in any specific
 way . I aim to be as objective as I possibly can taking these images of people  to whom I am very close, and want the images to form the basis of a series of
 more studied portraits (one I hope to continue as a personal long-term project   ). I want to isolate each subject from their usual surroundings and belongings
 for this reason I will use a black backdrop, which I also like aesthetically.  Excluding all other visual   information from within the frame will force my attention completely on  each subject and hopefully help enable me to capture something of their inner  self not usually revealed in a family album ,something I hope will be visible to  the viewer also. 
 
Post  shoot plan.
Upload and import  the images after each session into the Lightroom catalogue using a card reader.  I will not delete any images from my memory cards until the assignment is  complete and everything is backed up and printed. Back up Raw files to either  DVD'S or an additional external hard-drive. 
As  I am now using my new Mac I have decided to keep my folders in date order , key wording each image very carefully so it will be easy to find specific images as
the library grows. (The folder system had become chaotic on my PC and this is something I want to avoid) therefore key words and metadata will be added as
 soon as I have uploaded the images into Lightroom. The screen and printer have both been calibrated using  X-Rite ColorMunki Photo software.  
1:Initial review.
Assess each  session using a colour rating system (not the star system I used for the  exercises).
 Red =images to be  deleted/  Yellow= images to be reviewed a second time. 
2:Review the  images again and change any yellow flagged images to a green rating if I feel  they are worthy!! I aim to keep these to a minimum , perhaps at the most 3  from  each session , giving me a total of no more than 21 from  which to make my final assignment selects. 
3:Green=images to  process further in Lightroom.
Create a virtual  copy and do basic post processing in Lightroom. I could at this point also  export the image to Flickr. Review the final selected green flagged images once  again. From these I will make my final assignment choice and flag purple.  
4:Purple=  reserved for my final chosen assignment  images to be further processed in PS as a 16 bit Tiff and printed. 
I use an   Epson R2880 inkjet printer with Epson ink and 325 gsm PermaJet  Fibre Base Royal A4 paper.
I keep post -  processing to quite basic adjustments (I am still building up my Photoshop skills) .
 Create small SRGB  low res jpegs to upload to my Flickr  account and website. A useful function of LR3is the ability to export a jpeg straight toFlickr. Lightroom has  been set to back up to an external hard-drive each time I close the programme and includes XMP file information. 

Assessment:

Shooting.
This took much  longer than anticipated due to work and family commitments, organising a  session was like planning a military expedition. I found  
photographing the younger children difficult too under the more formal  conditions I set myself. I additionally took a series of unplanned  self-portraits, the photographer is rarely included in the family album .  Because I used a black backdrop I needed to meter carefully to avoid  overexposing each subject .  During  the initial first few shots I bracketed the exposure , checking the histogram  carefully for shadow and highlight clipping , until I was happy with the  exposure . I used my cable release throughout each session (which I find invaluable).  Having planned  not to influence but simply observe I found I needed to give directions as to  how I wanted each subject to pose to take advantage of the available light  conditions, my choice of light could be considered subjective too. I also found myself giving specific instructions , not to smile etc, therefore creating the  images became, I feel, much more personal. It is interesting to consider just  how truthfully any individual in a planned portrait session can ever really be  depicted. Did my personal knowledge make me photograph them differently to how   a total stranger might have chosen ? This is something I aimed to avoid but  actually found  impossible, however does my insight of their unique character give me an advantage that   somehow enables me to show hidden qualities?  That is something I had not considered  prior to starting the assignment but found myself consciously looking for as the sessions commenced.  In an interesting interview portrait photographer Nelli Palomaki discusses the expectations and   reactions of her subjects, especially of parents to her intense images of their   children. "They are shocked because they have  probably never seen a serious portrait of their child", she chooses not  to direct or talk to her subjects and believes " freed  from the usual instructions-----each child seems to relax and drop their camera  face" pg 10 Black + White  Photography January 2012.This contradicts my thoughts because as a  stranger she still manages to capture hidden aspects of her subjects'  personalities with her approach to portraiture. 

Session 1. Outdoors bright but overcast day.  (+ See notes in project section Editing )
56 images taken  with a 50mm F1.4 prime lens. I incorporated  the editing exercise into my first session using Maisie my 8 year old  granddaughter. She is a dream to photograph and usually makes a willing model but her age means she does get distracted. Hence I knew I would need to keep  the session reasonably short. As I noted for the exercise my best images were taken towards the end of the session as she became less conscious of the   camera. I asked her to either look directly at me or away and did not talk but simply observed her. Imagery of children can be a contentious subject and I am   always very aware of the limitations of what may be considered acceptable, or safe , however bearing that in mind I wanted to create a thought provoking portrait. 

Session 2. Taken outdoors using available daylight with mainly grey cloud cover. 50mm prime and 10-24mm lens. William (Bill) my  husband, who hates his photo being taken, was not an easy subject, he is the  family comedian and could not resist pulling faces as I shot him: not what I  had in mind. 
 
Session 3. Taken indoors  using strong  side light from a  large South West facing window on a bright sunny afternoon. 50mm prime  lens. Mum--my subject-
needed to sit down for this session. She is quite immobile at the moment and it was safer than getting her to balance standing up. Using my velvet backdrop was
 impossible in her flat hence I used a black skirt to provide the  background. At 86 she is  still a strong  character and I  wanted to try and show this even though age has caused the loss of much of her  former independence. I wanted to capture a slight defiance but also her strength  in the face of adversity , for this reason I asked her not to smile. 
 
Session 4. An hour long session-the longest-  with myself  as the subject. Not something I originally planned to do. 10-24mm lens. Taken outside on 
a bright but cloudy morning.  I found it easier  to sit on a chair with the cable release in my hand than stand. This was perhaps  the most difficult session, not only attempting to frame myself without chopping  my head off (hence I needed to use the wide angled lens) , but choosing how to  pose too. I do not like my photograph being taken, it rarely matches what I (want to ) see  in the mirror, or feel. However having total control over framing and pose gave  me the opportunity to try and capture something of myself, something I know to be true, that I rarely choose to share , or be seen, in a photograph. 
 
Session  5. The quickest   session--only 20 minutes capturing two subjects neither of whom was directed  except for where to stand. Indoors using  available side light from a South facing large patio window early afternoon.  50mm prime lens. It was difficult  to catch Caitlin, aged 5, with an un-posed expression, she was trying too hard to smile for the camera, I needed to  wait but not did not direct her at all. Phil was not a willing subject, and I needed to be very quick taking some close up shots of  him, it took me less than 5 minutes! I had seen a tightly cropped  image of actor Michael Fassbinder in the Saturday Guardian Weekend  magazine (7/1/2012 ) and knew this was exactly how I wanted to frame Phil too. 
 
Session 6. I decided to  attempt to take some images using an alternative from available daylight and took a series of portraits outdoors on a  freezing cold night using an overhead door lamp and a hand held torch as  my only light source . 50 mm F1.4  lens The 10-24mm lens  was not suitable for the darker light without taking  
very slow exposures which even if Rachel , my subject, kept very still  were unfocused. The backdrop was  balanced on bins behind Rachel, whilst her husband held the torch. Rachel can be   theatrical  and volatile, I wanted  dramatic light.  I needed to bracket all the shots, it was difficult to judge  the correct exposure due to the brightness of the lamps. 
 
Session7. Indoors using  side light from a South West facing large window on a bright afternoon. 50mm prime lens.  Black skirt used 
as a background. Mum was my  subject again but this session was of her hands. A photographic portrait is a  visual description and hands can tell you so much about a person, I find them   fascinating to photograph. Her   hands tell of the passage of time and old age. I found it really  difficult to get her hands framed exactly how I planned and needed to give her  specific instructions. I like their texture and shape  and tried to emphasise this.

Post shoot selection process.
A grand total  of 234 images needed to be rated, grouped, and reviewed to make a final choice  of between 6 and 12 for the assignment. After importing, tagging and applying  metadata I used a colour rating scheme to review groups of photos. Using the  Lightroom filters makes this a very easy process.  
Any "horrors" (79)were marked  red and deleted from the hard drive immediately.This was the easiest part of my  post shooting choice: if an image is badly exposed, out of focus, or just plain  awful, the decision is easy to make .My criteria for applying a yellow flag  included the very many similar shots I could not make an immediate choice between but had the qualities I was aiming for at the time of the shoot , and  perhaps most importantly needed little post-processing.  What I found especially tough was being objective in my choice , it was  really important for me to carefully consider how each image might be  interpreted . This process took me far longer than I anticipated,   framing, facial expression, stance , and technical details all needed to  be scrutinised carefully. I used the histogram in Lightroom to check for any  highlight or shadow clipping. Excluding session  one I was left with 87 yellow flagged images and needed to reduce these to a workable amount. This is something I really must start to do , I have hundreds  of un-processed Raw images on my old PC and do not want to build up a similar  collection on the Mac. Now is a good time to start and only keep my very best  shots, less is more perhaps? Before the advent of digital photography far fewer  images were taken and I personally feel the need to  slow down,to try and start thinking more creatively. I hope and want the portraits I have taken show  to some visible emotion, offering a glimpse of the inner person, and also be technically acceptable. Hence I was really tough and stuck to a strict criteria to award a green flag, but will I  ever bring myself to delete the rejected yellow flagged images from the  hard-drive? I know I should. Perhaps by the end of writing and printing this  assignment I will have pressed the delete button, that would be a step in  the right direction to achieving a tighter, tidier, workflow.   I was  finally  left with 15 green flagged  images that I processed very basically, adjusting the WB etc. I did not include  any that were  badly exposed, even  though I shot in Raw and could if I wanted adjust the exposure . The choices  became  harder at this point , each  green flagged image was (to me) acceptable technically and artistically. I made  a virtual copy of each file to work on. The images finally picked for the  assignment were then given a purple flag to be processed further and  printed.

Session 1. Maisie: (+See  editing exercise for full details) 56 images of  which 10 were deleted. 24 selected ,  reviewed  and reduced to a final 
9. A final choice of  2 were made for the exercise but my favourite is the one chosen for my  assignment.
 
Session 2.  Bill:45  frames / 24 flagged red to delete / 21 flagged yellow/2 flagged green. I liked his  direct eye contact , facial expression and pose. 
 
Session 3. Mum:12 frames /6  flagged red to delete/6 flagged yellow/3 flagged green Eye contact ,  facial expression, and how the light fell were important to create the mood I  wanted to depict.
 
Session 4. Self portraits:35  frames / 10 flagged red and 25 flagged yellow/2 flagged green.+   11 images initially taken with a 50mm lens that were deleted directly 
from the memory card--my head was chopped in half! What I was  looking for was an image that did not look like a self-portrait and seemed to  capture me unawares deep in thought--quite difficult when I was taking the  photographs.
 
Session 5. Phil and Caitlin:  22 frames/ 11 of each subject. Phil :2 flagged  red  and 9 flagged yellow/3  flagged green. Caitlin: 3 
flagged red / 8 flagged yellow/2flagged green.
 
Session 6. Rachel:34  frames/22 flagged red/ 12 flagged yellow/   2 flagged green. Bad exposure  and unacceptable focusing (shaky  images)  influenced my choices when  reviewing this session. Many were simply too underexposed, something I will need  to practice and remember when using these sort of lighting conditions in future. 
 
Session 7. Hands:30  frames/24  flagged red / 6 flagged  yellow/ I flagged green. I was really  disappointed with these and felt only one was really what I had been aiming  for. I love the textures and shape of old hands , and my sole green flagged  image was the best of the bunch. However I decided not to include this in my
 final selection as I felt it somehow looked out of place and did not contribute  to the sense of what I was trying to show.


Rejected

This was an obvious initial reject but makes me laugh out load -- how to not capture a flattering portrait.
It made a brilliant birthday card for Bill's birthday in January -- it should have been flagged red and deleted but sometimes you just need to keep memories like this.

The images in the gallery below were flagged green but not chosen for the assignment (click onto an image to view larger)
I felt each of these were simply not good enough nor fulfilled the brief I had given myself.
Its been a long task reviewing all of them and took far longer than I was anticipating .

                   A thought for future assignments is to try and take less but better quality images.

The final selection

Using the library filter makes it simple to select and view the final images. Each image has individual keywords relevant to the subject which will enable me to quickly find and view my best shots of a single subject as my catalogue grows. 
Processing the final images  + see notes for each  image.  
I initially assessed and  processed each image   as either a colour or mono version depending on what I felt suited the mood and   subject .I planned to include both colour ,sepia , and black and white images in   the assignment. However although I felt some worked really well in colour I  believe that as the set are to be viewed as a  themed series it makes sense   aesthetically to  present only mono images. Each final chosen assignment  image  was processed in Lightroom altering the WB , clarity, curves, and  converted to  mono . Raw files also require post-capture sharpening and I used  the  Lightroom pre-set for these. There are more advanced methods but until  I am  sure I know exactly what I am doing consider it preferable to use this  method.  There is a detailed guide to sharpening in chapter 8 of The  Adobe  Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book: The Complete Guide for  Photographers   [Paperback] Martin  Evening  (Author) that I need to  study in more detail. The  images were then further processed in Photoshop  but again only quite  basically as a 16  bit Tiff file which was imported back into my  Lightroom library and stacked with  the master file and copy.   Output  sharpening for print can now be handled by Lightroom rather than the  unsharp mask in Photoshop but I found through trial and error  I preferred printing from  Photoshop . Printing proved to be a bit of a  headache , I felt some of my images were too  dark , something I hoped to avoid  by calibrating the screen. Following advice to increase the brightness prior to  printing did improve some of the images but it  also had the reverse effect of  creating lost detail in the highlights on others , I ended up with 3 printed  copies of some! I probably made life hard for myself by choosing high contrast  light conditions for a few of the portraits. For this first assignment a Web  gallery  is acceptable but I also want my OCA tutor, Russell , to see my prints  and evaluate them,  printing is the final step in my digital workflow and I want  to get it right. 

Maisie
F2.8       1/50      50mm      ISO 100    Outdoor bright daylight with a cloudy sky  
Lightroom  and Photoshop adjustments.
 Daylight WB. Initial  conversion to mono using the auto setting then tweaked these until I was happy  with the result. Clarity increased  only very slightly.
Tone curve adjustment decreasing darks and increasing lights.  Using the camera  calibration settings I decreased the red and blue saturation and increased the
green. Edited in PS as a  16 bit Tiff with a ProPhoto RGB colour space. A very basic  procedure of checking levels, adjusting brightness and contrast. I printed via
 Lightroom using the output sharpening facility .  
I liked the colour version of this image but as I made the decision to keep all my  assignment images mono converted this too. I feel it is the best of the set I  took of her, I like her direct gaze towards the viewer. 

Bill
F4    1/80      50mm      ISO 200  Outdoor daylight   with mainly grey cloud cover 
Lightroom  and Photoshop adjustments.
Daylight WB. Initial  conversion to mono using the auto setting then tweaked these until I was happy  with the result.  I have been   rather cruel here and had fun with the clarity slider increasing it quite  sharply. I wanted greater mid tone contrast to accentuate the roughness of his  facial hair and skin texture. Tone curve   adjustment increasing the lights whilst decreasing the darks.  Using the camera   calibration settings I increased  the red,  blue, and green  saturation.Edited in PS as a 
16 bit Tiff with a ProPhoto RGB colour space.  A very basic  procedure of checking levels, adjusting brightness and contrast.  I used the unsharp mask --  resolution 175 /  radius 1.5 / threshold 5 and printed from PS. (I had several   attempts at sharpening , the first was far too over- sharpened and when printed   looked terrible--resolution 179/ radius 5 /threshold 0 ) 
He looks tough (he's not really !!!) a  rough diamond, but still retains a twinkle in his eye looking scarily like his  own father once did. He has mellowed in middle age (something we all do) I can  see who he once was but also who he has become . I like his pose and direct eye contact that are almost confrontational.

Mum
F7.1    0.6sec   50mm     ISO 200   Indoor side window  light 
Lightroom  and Photoshop adjustments.
Daylight WB  Initial  conversion to mono using the auto setting then tweaked these until I was happy  with the result. Clarity increased  to give greater emphasis to her skin texture and wrinkles.  Tone curve   adjustment increasing the lights and reducing darks .  Using the camera   calibration settings I altered the RGB saturation, decreasing red   blue and green.  Edited in PS as a  16 bit Tiff with a ProPhoto RGB colour space. A very basic   procedure of checking levels, adjusting brightness and contrast.  I printed via  Lightroom using the output sharpening facility .  
Mum makes an  exceptionally patient model and although she may be getting older and more   frail she remains fiercely independent. What I aim to illustrate is a sense of  this inner strength. 

Self-portrait
F4.5      1/3 sec      18mm    ISO 1OO   Outdoor light   bright cloudy day 
Lightroom  and Photoshop adjustments.
Custom WB @   6100  Initial  conversion to mono using the auto setting then tweaked these until I was happy with the result. Clarity reduced  A strong tone 
curve adjustment applied increasing the lights and decreasing the darks. Using the camera   calibration settings I increased   the blue and green saturation whilst decreasing the red.  Edited  in PS as a 16 bit Tiff with a ProPhoto RGB colour space. A very basic   procedure of checking levels, adjusting brightness and contrast.
I printed via Lightroom using the output sharpening facility. 
Have I revealed  something of myself in this portrait ? I find it difficult to be objective viewing myself ,I   obviously know who and what I am. Can you tell simply by looking at this image  that I am shy, sensitive, but also ultimately a strong character? 

Caitlin
F5.6      1/10sec     50mm       ISO 100  Indoor side light from a large patio window   
Lightroom  and Photoshop adjustments.
Custom WB @   4595 Initial  conversion to mono using the auto setting then tweaked these until I was happy with the result.  + half stop
exposure.  Cropped to place  her nearer to the left hand edge of the frame to improve the composition whilst   keeping her eyes in the top third.
Reduced the  clarity to help suggest a dreamy appearance.  Added  a slight amount of noise. I think this image has an old fashioned 
appearance due to the light and her expression, this is not something I usually  do but felt the image justified it. Tone curve  adjustment  increasing lights.
Using the camera   calibration settings I increased  the red,  blue, and green saturation. Edited in PS as a 16 bit Tiff with a ProPhoto RGB colour space. 
A very basic  procedure of checking levels, adjusting brightness and contrast. I printed via  Lightroom using the output sharpening facility. 
Caitlin is quite  shy and I hope this portrait captures some of her vulnerability as well as the  insecurity of childhood. Her body language as she clutches her toy suggests a sense of this. A reflector held to reflect some of the light back into her face on the left hand side may have been beneficial but not something I considered
at the time.

Phil
F5     1/8sec    50mm    ISO 100   Indoor side light  from a large patio window     
Lightroom  and Photoshop adjustments. 
Daylight WB Initial  conversion to mono using the auto setting then tweaked these until I was happy 
with the result. Cropped quite  severely. Clarity increased. Tone curve adjustment, lights increased and darks decreased . Using the camera   calibration settings I altered the RGB saturation, increasing red and  decreasing blue and green. Edited in PS as a 16 bit Tiff with a ProPhoto RGB colour space. A very basic   procedure of checking levels, adjusting brightness and contrast.  I used the un-sharp mask --  resolution 175 /  radius 1.5 / threshold 5 and printed from PS. 
Phil was the most   reluctant subject, he can be quite taciturn, I wanted to show him deep in   thought but needed to be quick. This was already a very close up portrait but I  wanted a more intense even closer frame than that captured in- camera. I printed the cropped and un-cropped versions to compare as I often prefer to   view how they look as prints. The light is a bit too bright on the right hand side something I really should have been aware of at the time of shooting.

Rachel
F1.4       1/30     50mm       ISO 200    Taken outdoors at  night using a hand held torch and an overhead door lamp . 
Lightroom and Photoshop adjustments. Fluorescent WB  Initial  conversion to mono using the auto setting then tweaked these until I was happy with the result.+ 1 stop exposure . This is something I always try to get right in camera but find I occasionally  need to alter , on these occasions I am glad I shot Raw.  Negative clarity
 adjustment to achieve a softer look. Tone curve   adjustment increasing the lights . Using the camera  calibration settings I altered the RGB saturation, increasing red and  decreasing blue and green.  Edited in PS as a 16 bit Tiff with a ProPhoto RGB  colour space. A very basic   procedure of checking levels, adjusting brightness and contrast.  I finally printed  via Lightroom using the output sharpening facility .  
Directing perhaps  some more light onto her hairline would have created interesting texture and a  greater tonal range but overall I am pleased with this portrait of Rachel  capturing her in a relatively contemplative mood.

 





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