Portrait Session: Camilla

I have never enjoyed taking portraits. It's something I've always thought was an "easy" assignment and didn't ever try very hard with them because it just wasn't something that ever interested me. But the longer I've been here, the more I'm coming around to portraits. Portraits don't equate to "mug shots," which I think was my mentality before. Portraits can tell a story about a person. They also don't have to be like senior pictures, which is another negative mentality I had.

Sigrid Nygaard is our guest lecturer this week. She is the photo editor of the Danish newspaper Information and is really an outstanding individual. Soon after graduating from DMJX, Nygaard went to the Information newspaper and told them she could revamp their entire visual appearance as photo editor. Before, Information was a largely text-heavy paper with very few photos. And even if there were photos in the paper, they weren't the strongest images.

Since becoming photo editor, she has completely reworked the paper's approach to photography and has even published an entire issue that acted as a photo story for the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. It is amazing how one individual can have something in their mind and come in and really make a difference.

Because Nygaard is the photo editor, she doesn't always have time to do daily assignments. Since portrait sessions are often shorter, she has been doing a lot of portraits for Information. And she decided she was going to make us warm up to portraiture, something that many of my fellow students are not huge fans of or do not have much experience with. I am — or was — one of those people.

Before our portrait session, Nygaard gave us three words she wanted us to convey in our portrait: adjusting, power and trust. Our subject, Camilla, is a student in Aarhus who just returned from a semester in Virginia in the United States. I instantly felt a connection with Camilla, as I feel like she is the inverse of my situation: a Dane returning to Denmark after six months in the States, while I am an American in Denmark who will be returning back to the States in six months.

Nygaard had us brainstorm and draw up five different sketches for ideas for the portrait. I was blanking a lot, but had one solid idea I was looking forward to. I wanted to show Camilla's transition visually and so I played with some direct flash and slow shutter speeds to get the first effect. I simply had the on-camera flash pointed directly at Camilla on TTL and had her turn profile. As I took the picture over a one second exposure, I had her turn her face towards me and give strong eye contact. I wish I would have had her face me first and then turn profile so her direct eyes would be stronger, but I still like the image.

The other image I liked was just some nice window light falling unconventionally across her face, which I thought kind of conveyed the same idea. I'm quite proud of my portraits, and am even more happy with the mindset I had towards portraiture now. I think I will start doing some different things with portraits now and will not hate it if someone assigns me a "portrait series" in the future. We have to do a portrait series this week over the span of two days and I have two ideas I am looking forward to trying out. I can't wait to show you!