Overhanging Sadness

1. in what area is critique to be sought?

Composition, emotions evoked, post-processing, and anything else of interest! =)

2. what one hopes to achieve with the piece of work?

I am trying to show sadness and longing through the expression of the model and the large shadow looming over her, as if it is something bad or dangerous that is descending towards her.

3. under what circumstance is the picture taken? (physical conditions/emotions)

This was actually taken at the National Museum, at the Photography Room. The room is very dark with only a few chandeliers lighting the area. I just spotted the interesting shadow that was made in a corner and tried to use the lighting as much as possible. I did a bit of post-processing to give it a more sepia vibe as the noise was a lot because I was shooting at ISO 6400.

4. what the critique seeker personally thinks of the picture

I think the shadow of the chandelier could have been more pronounced and cleaner to make it a better contrast. The model is my friend and we were just on a photowalk so maybe the expression on her face is not as strong as I would like it to be.

Do feel free to comment and give your critique. I am really trying to improve on my portraits. Thanks!!

Overhang Sadness
, on Flickr


Senior Member
Mar 11, 2004
For portraits the focus should generally be on your subject. The surroundings can be used in a variety of ways: plain background, environmental interaction or taking up majority of the frame, just some of the methods. Composition-wise, we try to avoid distracting the viewer off your talent. For example, you can frame a large part of the surroundings but only a small portion of your talent, perhaps her face. But the surrounds should be simple, non-chaotic. Imagine a face peering/peeking through tall grass etc. Here it looks really messy. You have to consider how people view photographs, particularly on a monitor screen. From top-to-bottom, bottom-top, left-right, right-left. I think since we usually scroll down, top-bottom sounds logical. If we put that into context here, the first thing we see is a big shadow of something, which I thought was some kind of tree. Then we see the talent, 2/3rds down, looking rather minor in the whole picture.

Whether being in a place where backgrounds are plentiful or scarce, it's a matter of picking the right few to get the job done. Either we plan everything from location to wardrobe, or we just wing it. But winging it of course, requires one to be particularly fast on their mind & feet. To visualise the connections, knowing the result one can get, and implement the shoot without prior preparation. Planning everything may be a little static, but more (not to say is the absolute best) is completed at the end. Winging it may get a couple of surprising gems, but complete failure is also a high possibility. If you have time you can do a little of both, though it's common that if you've created a plan, one wouldn't stray far from it.

Looking at your photo, is that a curtain your talent is holding? Because the vertical folds are looking very nice against her dress, and would create a much more pleasing background/surrounds. Forget the shadow, just concentrate on the patterns, and tonality of the image. Sepia is a nice touch, the curtain looks so soft and cosy. I don't think your friend is shy in public, I'm sure she can produce a range of emotions to work with. Until you as the photographer can direct the talent convincingly to portray certain emotions, it's better to let the talent do what's natural. You just need to point out certain posture changes, like angling her body more, head turns/tilts, etc. Speaking of which, don't tell your talent to "look away", always convey clearly, say "turn/tilt your head which way, but look straight". For long hair remember to have the talent bring a brush or something to take care of the stray hairs sticking out. They look horrible once you shoot closer.

Apologies it took so long to reply. I had thought other members would have spoken by now, since I don't really shoot portraits. Too much trouble, *winks. I've been busy last few days as well and hadn't had the free time to type this out. Cheers, come back with more photos (here/P&P gallery) next time.

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