CONCEPTUAL PORTFOLIO
PROCESS & REFLECTION

THE PROCESS

INITIAL RESEARCH PHASE
I had a few ideas for the folio, as mentioned in the research section. I decided on my final idea – an exploration of sex workers and their alter egos and wanted to start pretty much straight away. 

Stephen and others brought up the valid point that making the glamour shots and the matching portraits cohesive would be challenging to achieve. Stephen suggested making it all about the light, and I then went and refined my idea down and did some extra research. I was given a suggestion during this initial research phase that I could make it simply about “the body” and then the face behind the work as a way of exploring the objectification of workers and then the real personalities behind the alter ego. I thought this was a great idea, too, and I have stowed this one away perhaps for a future project.

I made myself three Pinterest boards – one for the glamour shots, one for the portraits, plus one for behind-the-scenes/detailed shots. On another note, I also saved a lot of other pins for other projects/ideas and for future reference (so the research was well and truly worthwhile). 

I knew I couldn’t copy these photographs, and I was looking for lighting ideas and a general vibe for the portfolio. I was also looking for posing ideas as this was worrying me and something I knew I needed to work on for this to be a success. 

I became unwell over the last week of school before the break and then over the holidays when I had planned to get started. This illness dragged out for a few weeks and left me with a very injured neck after a huge two days of shooting for this portfolio. This was complication one with my portfolio.

FIRST SHOOT DAYS
I booked a reasonably large room at the Burbury Hotel to shoot in as I have been to shoots in the hotel previously, and it is really pretty. They have recently updated some of the rooms, and this was also a drawcard as they have put new carpet in. I chose this room partially for the sheer linen-look curtains and had put a lot of thought into utilising this all to my advantage.

I was excited about the dramatic harsh natural light that I knew I would get throughout the afternoon in their rooms. Well, I didn’t account for being on the other side of the hotel (facing east) and had organised my shoots for the afternoon and evening (which would have been perfect for sunrise shoots, but my models would never be inclined to get up that early!).

Regardless, I made it work! I used the soft curtains and the diffused light to take some of my favourite photographs from this series.

1ST OCTOBER 2023
My first model was “August” (pink hair). The general consensus is that her photo in the robe is one of the stand-out pieces of my portfolio. I did exactly what I said above and used the natural light to my advantage here. She and I had a really great time – she is an absolute delight to photograph and is really great at posing and is extremely comfortable in front of the camera. Her and I have a good rapport so we just had fun and went with the flow.

My second model on this day was “Harlow” (petite with tattoos). I wanted to ensure variety within my photographs despite using the same room. We took the first few with natural light (the black and white silhouette with the curtains) however, I quickly had to swap to flash with the light disappearing. I mainly used a single speedlight with a bounce umbrella for these shots – I added a colour correction gel to the Speedlight for the bathroom shots and adjusted my white balance accordingly to find a happy medium for skin tones and the room keeping some of its warm orange glow (it was way too orange without the colour correction). 

I also did a series of photographs trying to mimic dramatic light coming from a Speedlight/umbrella creating shadows along the wall; however, these weren’t as good as I hoped, and some of them were significantly under-exposed (my first lesson that darkness does not equal dramatic lighting).

2ND OCTOBER 2023
The following day I did a shoot with my dear friend “Harvest” (tattooed and curvy). Always patient and just a pleasure to spend time with we had a wonderful afternoon listening to great music and experimenting with lots of spots around the room. I struggled a little with posing her, I didn’t really feel very on my game. I think I wasn’t as happy with the previous days shoot as I thought and let that get to my head somewhat. 

I really loved what we did with her in the hotel room doorway, utilising the (very orange) ambient lighting to create a dramatic backdrop. If I had my time again, I would be a bit more creative with using flash and perhaps would have used a bounce flash off the ceiling to enhance the front of her. 

My next models were two good friends (also very good friends of each other) – “Mia & Georgia”. I wanted to show the concept of sex workers working together during bookings – known as “doubles”. I was actually really struggling by this point of the two days (more on this down below*). The light faded very quickly so I shot most of this with flash (huge octobox with grid – the photos are soft and very pretty). I have a lot of great photos from this shoot which didn’t get included in the portfolio as they didn’t fit the lighting. However, I included a natural light photo of the two of them, one natural light photo of Mia and one flash portrait of Mia. They were both tired too as they had got back from the coast that afternoon.

COMPLICATIONS & CHALLENGES
I honestly think I overdid it these two days, I was definitely not on top of my game physically and mentally. I had been so sick a couple of weeks before and hadn’t fully recovered, however, didn’t really realise that until day two. I think the physical illness was affecting me mentally, and I really struggled with a foggy brain which led to me giving less direction than I would have liked. By the second night after everyone left, I was so physically and mentally exhausted. Initially, I was very disappointed in my work (I am my own worst critic), however, I let the photos sit before I made any decisions. I actually did end up reaching out to everyone about a reshoot, and I was so disappointed in myself. They all said they would oblige, however after reviewing the photos weeks later, I realised this was a huge over reaction and there were so many amazing photos amongst the group.

I was a little worried about the quality of some of the photos I had taken, I felt that some of them were very soft, and I felt like I had really not let enough light into my camera for many of them, leading to bad quality photographs. I was frustrated at myself, I had chosen to use my Canon 90D for a lot of these photographs as I have a great Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 APS-C lens which is wonderful for shooting in small spaces such as hotel rooms with limited light. Upon review my focus was also off on a lot of the photos, I did think I just wasn’t used to shooting fast, and it was entirely my issue.

I also ended up injuring myself this weekend after being sick for so long, that my body just didn’t cope with the big shoot days. I hurt my neck and then struggled to sit at a computer for a week or so and truly review the photos. This meant that my next shoot day was pushed back even later than I hoped for…

I had arranged for a shoot in Sydney on the 22nd for two friends and had booked accommodation to take beautiful photos in. However, they both cancelled on me (after I got to Sydney!!!). I think this was the point I realised my days for doing freebies might be coming to an end.

Simultaneously though… my Canon 6Dii died on me…

24TH OCTOBER 2023
One of the friends (“Eliza”) who cancelled on me in Sydney ended up driving back to Canberra with me (so not all hope was lost). I dropped her at her apartment in the Nishi building and popped into CIT for a couple of hours. She had some time that afternoon, so I grabbed my gear and drove over to Acton to get a quick shoot done. The light was super harsh as it was in a west-facing apartment at around 1 pm in the afternoon. I was absolutely stoked with the photographs – two outfits in a space of around two square metres.

By this point, I hadn’t changed my mind about doing the other half of the shoot and had arranged to meet her later for an outdoor portrait shoot at golden hour (think backlit farm vibes). 

I got back to CIT and uploaded the photos. They were not sharp and out of focus… yikes! I then realised that my 90D was potentially having issues with focusing. I had the realisation that while I am sure I underexposed some of my previous photos, and that was why they were soft, I was also having focusing issues with the 90D leading to my focus being off. 

I had a bit of a meltdown this week thinking I had just lost use of both of my cameras. I had another shoot organised and booked for the next day so I needed a solution quickly. 

I attempted to get the micro-focusing fixed overnight and I was confident I had found a solution. By the next day little did I know that I hadn’t actually really permanently fixed my one working camera…

25TH OCTOBER 2023
I had arranged for my last three models to come on the afternoon of the 25th of October. I had booked a different hotel (Deco Hotel) and had specifically requested a high up west facing room overlooking Northbourne Avenue. I explained that it was for a photo shoot (I didn’t elaborate on the sort) and they were very happy to oblige.

I have to thank Gabbi for coming and rescuing me with her camera that afternoon, so I ended up taking photos on her 6Dii. I tried the 90D, and it was failing me, and really struggling with any type of backlit portrait. 

My first model that day was “Teresa”, with her short hair and caramel skin these photos just ended up beautiful, and I was so happy with the final product once I got my camera sorted.

I still struggled with backlit portraits, and I think I was more flustered than I should have been throughout the shoot due to the camera issues. At this point, I think I was just running off adrenaline. One of my favourite photographs in my portfolio is of Teresa’s silhouette in the window with Telstra Tower in the background. So I cannot complain at all about this shoot day. I also captured many shots that while not appropriate for the portfolio (light, perhaps not dramatic enough), will be wonderful for work purposes and the girls’ portfolios.

My second model on this day was “Georgia” (again – this time on her own). This was possibly my favourite shoot from the whole portfolio. I really struggled to narrow my choices down as to what to include. Not much to say about this shoot other than it was the perfect dramatic lighting conditions – west-facing harsh, sunny light. Totally baller.

My last model was “Naomi”. We have such a fun friendship and the shoot turned out well. She was running late so we really only caught the very last of the natural light. I included one photo of Naomi in natural light and one of her in the bathroom using the ambient bathroom light. I also struggled with posing Naomi and this has given me a lot of food for thought on learning various types of posing and shoot angles to really ensure I can show off my model’s best features in the future.

REFLECTION

REFLECTION ON SHOOTS & PROCESS
I actually hadn’t done my editing at this point as I was being very critical of myself at this point. I was quite scared and worried about sharing my work with Stephen and my peers. I felt like I couldn’t achieve what I had really desired throughout my shoots. But upon sharing my work with others in class and then Stephen I realised that in fact I was being quite harsh on myself and I possibly had enough content for this side of my portfolio. I had done 8 shoots with 8 models, and there was definitely enough variety and quality work to be included. 

It was the following week after the last shoot that Stephen and I spoke and he said “please stop taking photos”. The fear of not being able to make the shoots cohesive was real, as the photographs had actually exceeded expectations. Despite shooting with a strong focus on the light and attempting to make the photos more “artsy” I think the shots are still too glamorous for the original concept, and shooting the portraits within my time frame and attempting to do both justice would be very difficult. So it was at this point I abandoned the other half of the shoot and really went through my photos and started deciding on what to edit.

I honestly didn’t end up with much feedback, and the feedback I did get was almost all positive. I feel extremely blessed to have had so much support around me, as I was really struggling with crippling self-doubt throughout this process. I actually did seek out external feedback also, from my good friend Maddie (who is a full-time boudoir photographer – talk about scary) and also from Ari Rex. Both of them were really supportive and only provided minor constructive criticism, which really boosted my confidence levels. I have to thank everyone around me for repeatedly telling me I was capable and that my photos were really good.

OVERALL REFLECTION
Sorry if this section is shorter, I feel as though I reflected a lot on my work throughout the process and I don’t know how much more to add. 

I feel like this whole subject was a really interesting process for me to go through. I hadn’t really contemplated that your creative brain can actually be exercised and that there are ways to help expand your creativity. I am so pleasantly surprised about the results of my work overall. I learnt so much about the way I work, my brain works, myself and my lack of confidence in myself (something I am actively working on changing). 

Doing the initial research expanded my ideas beyond what I had previously contemplated. It also broadened my knowledge of what was out there in the industry and has made me contemplate my future style of photography. I can really say that this process has been invaluable to me. 

I learnt so much about my camera, things that affect the outcome of your photos and how much you can’t control (ie. natural light). I have learnt that having some tricks in your bag can give you some great photos. I don’t think I would go anywhere without Speedlights and umbrellas anymore! 

I learnt how to overcome my physical challenges with my health and accept that I didn’t have as much time as I wanted. I learnt that having a plan B when things go awry can lead to some pretty amazing photos and that the camera and the gear doesn’t make the photographer (I think I knew this, but my camera issues proved my point).

I am so thankful for the support of Stephen and my classmates for the feedback and being involved in my work. I will never not include feedback in my process now – it is important to help you grow as a photographer and see things that you may have not considered yourself. 

I have so many additional ideas for projects that have been born from this process. They are all on similar topics but by separating my initial idea out into two distinct parts the best things is that I have another project I can explore moving forward. I am so grateful for this portfolio as I feel that I have gained more ideas than I know what to do with if I am honest, which is a really wonderful and positive feeling to have. While I am completely exhausted by the effort of this semester, I am also creatively itching to get into creating some more projects and praying I never lose this enthusiasm.