May 062014

Photo copyright Olivia Franco

In Northern Arizona University’s 2014 spring semester Amy Horn gave her Photography 285 class an assignment: to turn in: a portrait photograph. Spring break was the week before the assignment was due. I have always made the best attempt to be a diligent student and made plans to shoot the image at the beginning of the break. However, this was far from what had actually happened. I planned to return the Sunday before classes started up again and, of course, took the photo the Saturday before. Panic struck me at the thought of lacking someone at school that fit my very high, photogenic requirements. Originally, my mind was set on my mother, who has a very photogenic face. One argument later and we agreed that my mother would not be my subject. It was quite rude of her, something about how much she hates a camera in her face.  Out of options, I chose my father as my target instead.

Normally I considered my father to have a rather plain face, but I quickly learned that with the right amount of adjustment anyone could look nice for the camera. The photo’s set up was also interesting. Instead of an elegant studio, I had to make do with my parent’s home. 6:30pm light filled the room from approximately four windows. The background was a black, fleece blanket and his choice of seat was a common living room chair. The photo shoot began only after fidgeting with my flash and wireless triggers, which I placed to the right and above the subject, for a good twenty minutes. It was unprofessional at the time but I consider it a live and learn situation. My dad wore glasses and a dark grey graphic t-shirt at the time and after the first shot was taken I knew that wasn’t going to make for a dramatic photo. I took the glasses from him and choose a nice shirt out of his closet. I chose blue with the thought in mind that it would be nice with the black background. As he returned to his chair he grabbed a hat which hung by the front door. I considered it, assumed it would not harm the photo, and agreed to let him wear it.

I took many good shots and was overall pleased with them. We then experimented with the placement of the chair, brought in our family dog, and with the hat on and off. It was an enjoyable experience and my father started to have fun too. He struck a few poses and referred to them as his glamour shots. It wasn’t until I took the images into Lightroom that I decided that the joke photos were some of the best ones. My roommate had made the final decision of which photo to turn in for our portrait assignment. She referred to it as the “stoic” pose and was one of the ones I hadn’t considered due to its very “glamor shot feel”. When I received my grade from Amy, I was excited to see that I had received full points. From the experience, I learned that every photo you take is important, whether as a joke or in the spur of the moment, you never know which photo might be the money shot.

Shot with Canon Rebel T3. ISO: 200, 24mm, f/4.5, 1/160 seconds. Watermark added. I lowered the background’s exposure to take out any distractions.

About the Photographer:
My name is Olivia Franco and I am a third-year student at Northern Arizona University majoring in Electronic Media and Film with Theatre and Photography minors.  I have been fascinated with technology ever since I was a child, especially with cameras. My uncle is a professional photographer and I never failed to ask him to play with his camera at every family gathering. On the day of my high school graduation, he gave me my first camera: a Canon Rebel T3 DSLR. I currently shoot with that camera and plan to continue with it for a long time. I enjoy shooting macro and exposing the smaller things in life but have just now begun to understand the charm of portrait photography and hope to continue pursuing this other style.

To read more about the Northern Arizona University “Behind the Image: Guest Blogger” project on our blog, please read the introduction at

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