Exercise 3.10 A formal portrait – final edit

5th February 2020

How would you make a formal portrait of someone, that tells the viewer about that person’s character, life and interests but remains subtle and restrained?


Logged On, Zoned Out

I found this exercise quite tricky. Not being use to ‘formal portraiture’ and then realising that I am actually very unsure what can be classed as ‘formal’ I became a little bit confused. The research that I completed didn’t even help to clarify clearly the boundaries that one could work within and craftily step outside of, to still qualify your image genre as formal and not informal or ‘candid.’

To top this early confusion, my sitter had let me down twice, therefore I began to stress about who the hell I could use as my subject. It came down to my daughter once again and I wanted so much to work with different people.

The final image can be seen below and I have also included the same image as a converted black and white image. The reason I have included both is because I am not even sure if black and white formal portraits are as acceptable as the colour ones, being that during my research I only came across a handful of black and white images. Is this because the concept is to capture a staged reality and black and white steps outside of the genre and becomes more aquatinted with candid and street photography? If lighting is an important part of the formal image taking out the yellow hue from the overhead lamp when converting it to black and white would this also mean we are stepping back from reality because it is not visually correct, I mean who sees in black and white?

Logged On, Zoned Out – Colour
Logged On, Zoned Out – B&W

To be honest I think I have failed miserably at this exercise, I do not even know if I have made a formal portrait because although we did stage it, it looks like a natural candid shot.

Can too much reality in the planning then confuse the meaning and the outcome if it is supposed to full under the heading of a ‘formal portrait?’

2 thoughts on “Exercise 3.10 A formal portrait – final edit

Add yours

  1. Hi Dawn, I feel you have answered the question really well with your image. You’ve have managed to show your daughters character and interest and although staged it is not rigid and false.
    I love how you have asked so many questions that have made me think about what shoud I be looking at when I finally get to this exercise. There is a lot of food for thought…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Claire, this has been the trickiest exercise for me so far. I began the exercise baffled and now completed I am twice as baffled, especially as the research did not help this time.
    Good luck to you for this exercise and I will be having a crafty nose at your outcome!


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