Project Objectives

  • Observe how light can be used to communicate content.
  • Understand how the Elements of Design: Shape, Space, Value and Color can be used to communicate content.
  • Explore techniques to control light.
  • Understand how the Principle of Design: Balance affects the composition.

Project Description

In this project you are going create a portrait of yourself using Balance and controlling light and color to convey content.


Project Considerations

Principle of Organization: Balance and Space Division

  • As soon as you hold up a camera and look through the viewfinder or at the LCD monitor you are dividing or breaking up
    the frame by what is in the viewer.
  • In looking at a photograph the human brain has a need for order and balance. If a photograph is not balanced our eye
    will want to slide off the page and we will not feel comfortable looking at the image. If we draw a line down the middle of a
    photograph our eye or brain likes to see equal visual weight on the two halves.
  • We can use any or all the elements of design to create balance.
  • Balance give us five basic ways to divide the frame.

1. Symmetrical
2. Asymmetrical
3. Radial
4. Rule of Thirds
5. Frame within a Frame

  • Use one of these three methods of space-division: Symmetrical, Rule of Thirds or Frame within a Frame, to portrait of yourself. Use the on your camera and a tripod to create an image as sharp as possible.
  • You should try to have a key or main light on one side of the face and a secondary light on the dark side of the face, as well as explore different light sources to illuminate your face and change the content. Be very careful not to have any over-exposure particularly on the forehead and the checks.
  • Explore color by changing clothes, accessories and background.

Step-by-step Directions

Part 1:

Look at the work of Gregory Crewdson and Zeke Berman and think about the way in which they use lighting to evoke particular feelings within the viewer:

Gregory Crewson

This site is a little convoluted—you have to click into each exhibition and then on the left you can click “View Images”. Make sure you check out the exhibitions, Twilight,Gregory Crewdson & Gregory Crewdson: Beneath the Roses.

Zeke Berman

Part 2:

Set up your camera and photograph yourself at least three times without moving your camera. Use only changes in lighting to evoke three distinct moods, for example tranquility, danger, mystery, joy, etc. Remember to fill the whole frame– think about the rule of thirds, focal point, and a balance of negative/positive spaces.

Be creative with your various light sources: a flashlight, a desk lamp, living room lamp, candles, Christmas lights, sunlight, etc. as well as strobes, flash or “Professional” lighting.

Even though the end result of your work will be three images, you will probably shoot around 60 – 100 images (20 – 30 of each scene if not more). Don’t compromise your final piece by not exercising patience and getting enough pictures!

If possible, shoot  in RAW.

Document the way that you set-up your lighting scenarios. These “behind the scenes” images are great learning tools and fun to see!  

Part 3:

Upload your images to WordPress under Project 6, under a child page called Raws. Upload the photos through the Gallery. Do not edit out your mistakes, crop, or adjust any of the images.

Part 4:

Take more pictures if needed and create a second page called Edits with your three strongest images (each one of these images should have a different lighting set-up) and write down the significant metadata (ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture) next to each image.

Part 5:

Edit your final three photographs in Photoshop and prepare the images to print in 8′ x 10′ mate paper. Use  CVS, Walgreens, Target or any other printing service.

Grading Criteria:

This project is worth 6 points

Sample Work:


Lighting Techniques:

Camera Metering:

Seeing Color:

Using Color:

Value + Color + Texture presentation by Curt Belshe

Balance presentation by Curt Belshe