Photo Life is proud to partner with Seneca students to document their journey through the school curriculum. This week Karen Sum shares about learning through experimentation and feedback.
Class: Photography III
Assignment: Create a public service announcement ad.
Student: Karen Sum
Professor: Patrick Fordham
Assignment guidelines: Use one of six lighting patterns and create a PSA ad.
For this assignment, we had to produce an image that represents a social issue to raise awareness. I originally wanted to do my PSA with my son as the subject, but I quickly changed my concept based on another model’s availability. I felt the result would be better if the model was patient enough for me to set up and position everything just right.
The idea for my shoot came to me the day before shooting, and I quickly planned the set-up I was going to use. My instructor often says the model can either make or break your shot so I considered what look my model could pull off and “badass” came to mind.
I often try to make an effort to depict women as strong and confident in my photos. As I was washing the dishes that night, Uma Thurman from Kill Bill set off a light bulb moment of inspiration. It would work seamlessly as all I had to do was borrow my brother’s katana sword as the prop.
The day came to shoot. I went in earlier to set up the lighting. I realized that setting up alone takes quite a bit of time, but I got it finished before my model, Paola, arrived. Since she is my classmate’s wife and a makeup artist, I felt more at ease. As she was doing her makeup, I was putting the finishing touches on my lighting set-up.
I had Paola do a few different poses turning towards and away from the light. My goal was to do split lighting on her to create more drama. There was one pose in particular I wanted to test out. It was to have her back turned towards the camera, head turned on the left to look back, and the sword in the left hand pointed down and to the right. I realized it was not humanly possible to have her head turned enough to have evident split lighting on her face with that pose.
I also experimented with the sword pointed up and down to see the difference. I noticed that the image had more punch to it when the sword was pointed upwards. Remembering what my instructors kept reiterating from last year, I decided to abandon the full body shot and crop the image in tight to focus on the expression. My final image did not require further cropping except to fit the sizing requirements. I also kept in mind what my previous studio instructor said about shooting with enough space to accommodate text. I considered putting in a fill on the model’s left side, but thought to create more drama by leaving it out.
I’m very happy with the final product. I can really see why it saves time to get the image as perfect as possible in-camera. Post-processing the photo did not take more than half a day. I am also lucky to have classmates who have a design background to give me advice on size, placement, colour and font for the text.
After critiquing the assignments in class, I learned I could have improved the image by sharpening the image and putting a few highlights in her hair to give it more dimension. Overall, what I enjoy most about all my assignments is receiving feedback on what I could do to improve my images. It’s the only way to master my craft.
The Seneca @ York Independent Digital Photography Program is a two-year diploma course that prepares students for a freelance career and provides them with the necessary skill set to work in a multidisciplinary studio.