Image Doctor: Contemplation
Photographer: Emily Freeman
Camera Type: Nikon D5000
Lens: Tamron 90mm
Shutter Speed: 1/30 sec
Adjustments: Converted to black & white
Photographer's Comments: I took this while practicing taking portraits. It was taken at night while we were camping. One of our fellow campers had turned on a bright light while they were cooking their dinner by the campfire which gave me the opportunity to capture this.
Image doctor's advice
Thanks for sending in this photograph and thanks also for the note you included with it.
The word that I liked the most in your comments was “practice”. Most people do not give much thought to “practicing” photography but the reality is that it is only by trying, and reviewing images that we get better at photography. Henri Cartier Bresson is quoted as saying that “your first 10,000 photographs are your worst”; nowadays I would argue that it is more likely to be your first 100,000 photos! Most photographers, amateur and pro, are making more images although I do not think many of us are learning as we go.
Most of the top photographers that you see making outstanding photos in our magazines have usually spent at least a decade practicing their craft and in that time they will have shot and reviewed as many as 200,000 to 500,000 photos! In short, you can never take too many photos if you want to improve.
That said, you also need to look back and learn from each photo.
With this image I can tell that you are working with one single light source in an open environment. The open environment factor is important because there is nothing for that light to reflect back off (if you tried making this same photo with the same light in your living room a lot of light would be reflected into the shadows by the walls).
As a result the contrast in the scene is very high.
This does not prevent you from making good photographs though. All that you needed to do to make this photograph strong was simply get your subject to turn his head to the right. That would have brought light onto his face and we could have seen his expression, even if he was looking at the ground.
Keep practicing with one light, and keep exploring and ideas too. Some of the most amazing photographs have been made with a single light source.