Manila at Night

by Bam Blanco Ramirez
(Manila, Philippines)

Manila Rooftop

Manila Rooftop

I took this during a photo shoot session for our models (we have an agency in Manila).

After reading your piece regarding BW photography - I gave the channel mixer a try and converted one of the FC photos.

Hope you can send me some comments to allow me to improve my craft.


(For convenience, all links below open in new windows)
Originally this was posted to our black and white photography submission) page. But as Bam is looking for improvements, we have moved it here to the photography tutor section.

So, lets take a look at this photo and see where things have gone well, and where improvements might be made.

First of all, the setting is good. Rooftops of large cities are great for portraits. The city lights create a wonderful backdrop.

The positioning of the model is good too. Using the rule of thirds as our guide, Bam has nicely placed the subject off centre. Perhaps he has gone a little further then the rule of thirds would state, but there's nothing wrong with pushing the boundaries a little!

The pose of the model is, well, OK I suppose. This is one area where I think there is an opportunity for improvement. I guess Bam has gone for the wistful look, but I just wonder if there wasn't a better pose here.

First of all, working with models is an art in itself. And here's a tip for anyone who is working with a model – give them direction. Strong direction. And be precise about how you want them to pose. If the left hand needs to be raised six inches, and the index finger needs to be straight – tell them! It sounds picky, but models actually like this sort of direction. And try to keep the communication going with plenty of feedback.

But I digress . . . back to the pose. If wistful is the intention, I wonder if the scene would have been better with the model standing, facing the city. Hands on the handrail, with the wind brushing the hair away from her face.

Or perhaps sitting on the bench, with knees held tightly against her chest, head dipped a little, staring wistfully out to the city.

I would also have liked to have tried something with eye contact (and maybe Bam has one or two in his collection from this shoot?). I am thinking of the photographer up high, maybe on a set of portable steps if needs be, the model standing facing the photographer, head tilted upwards to look directly at the camera, hands clasped behind her back, and a slight wiggle in the hips.

From this sort of angle (i.e. up on some steps, looking down on the model and the city behind) we would have an interesting pose, and we would see much more of the city lights, and less of the featureless foreground that we currently have.

As a final suggestion – use some soft lighting to illuminate the model. This photo looks very much like some sort of basic vignette tool (such as the one in Picasa) has been used (Bam can let us know exactly how he achieved the effect). This has brightened the model, and left the background dark. But it has also highlighted the area of sky just behind the model. It would have been better if a soft flash had been used to highlight the model, but keep the sky black.

Nice photo though, and I hope there's a few tips here to try on future shoots!


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