Learning through failure

Jan 19, 2018
Columbus, Ohio, US
Real Name
Most of the shots I see on this site are people's best work. I think that's what everyone wants to share. Today, I figured I'd do something different. Here's a series of 3 failures that I learned from. With fewer opportunities for pictures outside the house, I thought I'd break out the lights and practice some OCF portraiture with my victims models who are stuck with me. My son has amazing blue eyes and I've been wanting to do a portrait that captures that. So my thought was a blue chambray shirt as a background might bring that out.
49839922732_b37120cf6f_o.jpg 3 Failures (1/3) by Defective Monk, on Flickr
This one at least has the correct focus. Light camera center 45° high but no reflector causing weird shadows. Plus, that face! This is what you get if you ask for a smile. Room was dim so his pupils are dilated meaning I didn't actually capture the deep blue his eyes actually are.

49839619221_54279c71c4_o.jpg 3 Failures (2/3) by Defective Monk, on Flickr
This one is closest to what I was going for (while still being not actually close). Blown focus - he must have moved after I set the focus and I didn't check. And the framing is off. I was trying to go too fast and cut off the top of his head. Added a reflector below so the shadows are acceptable. Pupils still dilated but you at least catch a little. You can kind of see that they're blue and there is some interaction between the eyes and the background.

49839619161_5d6e89f0f0_o.jpg 3 Failures (3/3) by Defective Monk, on Flickr
Again, blown focus as it's part of the same series as the last one. Lighting is acceptable. Squinty eyes so you can't even see they're blue.

It was also right before bedtime so I was keeping him up to do this. That made him a little uncooperative.

Lessons learned:
  • Make sure there's enough light in the room so that the pupil is contracted and you can actually see the irises
  • Double-check focus before each shot (or use eye-detect)
  • Make sure model is in a cooperative mood

John King

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Apr 20, 2020
Beaumaris, Melbourne, Australia
Mark, those aren't really too bad. Nice looking youngster.

More ambient light would have closed his pupils down a bit, showing his irises better.

Taking shots of eyes is actually quite hard (I've done a lot with our cats - I'm not really into people photography). You need to get in close. Here's one of Lizzie:

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

As for only displaying one's best work, I don't go along with that. My web site has all sorts of crap on it, often for demonstrating what shouldn't happen! Hopefully, there are a few that have some merit here and there.

Keep up your experimenting!
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