Grainy self-portrait focussing challenge

Please look at the picture full size.

I have looked at quite a few self-portraits over the past few days on the blogosphere.

This was not going to be my next post but as I was unexpectedly asked for a self-portrait in this format to go on a poster for the forthcoming exhibition at the Bristol Festival of Photography in a week or two’s time, so I knocked one out.

I had to get my camera to focus when I was not behind it pushing a button which was a bit of a challenge. I realised that if I put it on the completely auto mode which I have never used before it would focus and then take the picture. I did try measuring the distance from me to the camera but the pictures were very soft.

I did two versions of the portrait one with 1600 ASA grain and one without. The one with is definitely more me that the one without. The one without grain felt like a digital picture – without soul.

I am often surprised on my workshops by the number of people who let the camera decide where the focus point of the picture will be. I thought the photographers job was to decide where to point the camera and what the point of significance and focus is. The silicon, plastic and glass in front of your nose has no way of telling what you are thinking. All the camera see’s is a range of reflected illumination levels none of them have any meaning or significance to the camera. If photography is about communication the photographer has to decide what idea, experience or information to communicate before pressing the shutter release.

Take this self-portrait firstly I choose the background a set of book shelves, the sitter position, the natural north lighting and framing. In this way I am telling the viewer about myself and what I want the viewer to see. Books and influences are a big thing in my photography.

Just because a camera has dozens of focus points it doesn’t mean that you have to use them all, all at the same time. For my type of photography where things don’t move very quickly I use the single central focusing point, lock the focus and recompose the picture and then press the shutter release. In order to take control of the cameras focus in this way you have to separate the AF & AE. On Canon Cameras this is controlled in the Custom Functions.

This method of focusing is taking responsibility for your actions and not passing the buck to lump of technology in your hands.

A big hello to all the new followers of my little blog, why not leave a comment? it won’t hurt a bit I promise.

(c) Andy Beel FRPS 2012

7 responses to Grainy self-portrait focussing challenge

  1. One could say why have CCds with low noise? However there is nothing like grain for adding effect to an image. perhaps it is a way that we as photographers have been conditioned to think. Grainy=moody, no-grain=perfection.
    Me I’ll take then grain when the time comes.
    As for AF points, there is no substitute for thinking a shot through.


  2. gamaraca says:

    Thanks for the advice Andy, I have a ways to go before not letting my DSLR do some of the work, but up for the long term challenge. Great self portrait, feel like I know you better!


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