Ad Hoc Challenges and Personal Growth

Sometimes it pays to throw caution to the wind.  To try something just to see if you can do it.  If it works, that's another skill or capability under your belt.  If it doesn't work, that's extra experience under your belt.  Either eventuality leads to personal growth.

In my own case, I was in the studio a few days ago to shoot a new passport photo for myself.  I wanted to get home, and I idly wondered how quickly I could do a good-enough job.  The answer was seven photos.  I got to the studio, took seven pictures, and went home.  I also made a lot of mistakes.  I learned a lot, and if I were going to do it over again, I'd do things differently.  Skills, capability, experience.

I analyze all seven shots below.

First shot.  Making sure the light and trigger are working.  Check.  Tripod in the photo is the one that I used (since I forgot mine at home; whoops).

Second shot.  Bumped the light output.  Remember that this is the tripod that will be under the camera, so the tripod isn't actually in the hotspot.

Third shot.  Camera mounted on tripod.  Yoga mat as focus stand-in.

Fourth shot.  Self-timer was shorter than expected.  Obviously overexposed, framed too low, and out-of-focus.

Fifth shot.  Bumped the camera from f/2.8 to f/4.0 to deal with overexposure.  Used another tripod as a focus stand-in, because its legs kept it from flopping backward like the yoga mat did.  Also, I made it taller to better approximate my torso height. Still out-of-focus.

Sixth shot.  Pitched down a little bit, and finally nailed the focus.

Seventh shot.  Focus is perfect.  Framing is perfect.  The main thing I got wrong is that the light is too directional.  I pondered putting up a second light and decided that I was too lazy.  That was a mistake — passport photos call for very flat, even lighting.  In the end, I was able to fix that in post, but were I shooting for an actual (journalistic) publication, it would've called for a re-shoot.

The second thing I got wrong is that I needed more diffusion.  I used a ~5-foot octa, set up pretty close, and the hotspot is too bright, which overexposed my left (camera-right) cheek, while leaving the rest of my face reasonably-exposed.  If I drop the exposure so my cheek is reasonable, the rest of my face is underexposed.  The effect is exacerbated by the fact that I wear UV-blocking sunglasses every day, which is why the area around my eyes is so much less tan than the rest of my face.

But all in all, pretty good.  And even better next time :o)



Hey, it's me! I’ve been a documentary photographer for 17 yrs, software engineer for even longer, and plenty of other things in between.