Portrait Editorial – ‘Innocent Perception’

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For my portrait photograph, I decided to choose the editorial genre, as I was very interested in looking at how images were captured to focus on a relevant story of a person. For example I found that editorial photography was usually used in magazines to anchor the article. They are the opposite of commercial photography in which the images are made to sell and make a profit. With that in mind, I liked the fact that editorial photography tended to focus on supporting a certain message.

vibrance new

I decided to capture a very simple image using a young person in the frame. I particularly wanted to experiment with natural lighting from the window. I wanted to capture an emotional style where I focused on her direct mode of address and used her cold facial expressions to connect with the audience. In terms of the location, I intentionally kept the ladder against the wall to connote that homely feeling, but also giving that sense of how that family may have been in financial struggles. I played around with the ISO, where 3200 made the image too bright, whereas keeping it on 1600 created a nice balance of the exterior and interior light. The shutter speed ranged within 80-160, as I tried to adjust it accordingly to the light from the window to create a nice mixture of the white light against the warm subjects outline Therefore with a higher shutter speed, my aperture was kept quite low, around f5.6, which initially focused more on the subject.

I slightly enhanced the photo in Photoshop, where I mainly increased the vibrancy and saturation, thus making the subject bolder, but also making the walls stand out. The idea of the green, plain walls reinforced the simplicity, relating to the subjects persona being quite simple, living in a mundane world. There was also a sense of space around the subject, again perpetuating this isolated ambience, creating a lonely feeling, allowing the audience to empathise towards with her.

A magazine tear sheet I created. Please bear in mind that the black small printed text is from another magazine, just used as an example. The rest of the words, subheadings, quotes are mine.

A magazine tear sheet I created. Please bear in mind that the black small printed text is from another magazine, just used as an example. The rest of the words, subheadings, quotes are mine.

I also wanted the image to send a particular emotional message. Of course when I came to editing the magazine spreadsheet, I made up an artificial story in what seemed appropriate and suited the image style. For example, I wanted to show how my subject had overcome a specific problem, this may have been bullying. This was reinforced by the quote “I would never change myself just because of them”. With reference to how editorial photographs tended to support an article, I definitely believe I achieved this. My photograph propelled quite an ambiguous approach, with a soft, innocent perception on one hand, whilst a cold stare on the other. I decided to call the magazine “The inside story” anchoring to how my subject had a detailed story, digging deep into her life.

Looking closely in the way I shot the photograph, I took it from a slightly lower angle, where the subject was looking down at the camera. This idea of power in her hands definitely was approached, where the story supported how this subject overcame weaknesses and such struggle. Moreover, the overall finish was very lenient to personal issues and reality, in which my subject was very strong. Due to her stance being quite solid, she comes across quite confident and brave, where we can see her being an inspiration role to other younger people out there. In addition, the ladder supplements the core realness of the image and location, where the ecstatic truth is recognized and absorbed.


To reinforce her story, I added another photograph in which I had taken, where the subject had her eyes closed and the window formed a lovely, soft reflection, enhancing that warm ambience. I added it in, as it complimented with the main image but also anchored the text below. The story was told through the subject’s eyes and forms a connection with the audience, maybe allowing other young people in that situation to relate.

Photography by Simon Jacobs http://www.simonjacobs.com/

Photography by Simon Jacobs http://www.simonjacobs.com/

Before hand I researched several editorial photographers where I definitely noticed an ongoing correlation of the style. For example, looking at Simon Jacob’s photograph above, I could immediately grasp the subject’s background and career. With a simple, kitchen location and the use of cutlery in the foreground, we can associate the subject as being a chef or part of a catering business. This is reinforced by his complementary uniform, of an striped apron and white shirt, symbolizing the stereotypical chef outfit.

Photograph by Jonathan Worth http://www.jonathanworth.com/

Photograph by Jonathan Worth http://www.jonathanworth.com/

In terms of the lighting and colour, Jonothon Worth’s famous photograph of Alicia Keys beautifully captures the warm ambience through house lighting and a glimpse of the window light. I really liked the way the subject is framed, in the centre, looking away from the camera. Her facial expressions seem emotional, thus making the audience curious about her feelings. The warm lamp gives a touch of softness and puts the audience in a calm mood. Similarily the white light in my photograph reflects an innocent, sharp yet also subtle feel.

Photography by Alec Soth http://alecsoth.com/photography/

Photography by Alec Soth http://alecsoth.com/photography/

Alec Soth’s photograph above, definitely inspired me in terms of the natural lighting and reflection. The white lighting and window reflection of the trees calmly lit the subject and portrayed a smooth finish. The central subject in the frame creates this emotional connection, where we begin to wonder who he is and what his story is about. Likewise, my subject approached this emotional release but also ambiguity of what her past contains. For example, the image alone has polysemic connotations, raising question of what has happened to her or what is she thinking? Though with the image placed beside the article, the subject is much stronger and the words form to tell the story and support the subjects roots.

Overall, editorial photography is something which I wasn’t fully aware of before. Though having researched and experimenting with people around me, I have definitely gained a better insight in the style, context and meaning of the genre. Enabling a photograph to be supported by an article, book or any other format is significant in order to push the boundaries of the story. But also the subject, location and colour should be able to speak for itself. This in which my photograph raised its volume and was particular shot in a specific way that created a striking yet expressive layer.


Simon Jacobs 

Jonathan Worth

Alec Soth


2 thoughts on “Portrait Editorial – ‘Innocent Perception’

  1. Excellent write-up! Small shifts in angles can make a huge difference to how the subject is perceived. If you had photographed the girl from above, with her looking directly at the lens, the result would have been just the opposite.

    • Thank you very much! Glad you liked it! Yes the angles are significant…it puts the subject in perspective. Thanks for commenting 🙂

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