This week we are going to feature a photo by the awesome Sophie Ellis (Follow her on Flickr, and make sure to check out her website). Thank you Sophie for giving us permission to use your photograph. 

Last week we took an in-depth dive into composition and lighting of a different photograph. To continue the series, this week we take a quick glance at the composition and lighting of Sophie’s photographic art, and then move on to analyze the depth of field and the models pose. Let’s start analyzing! 

sophie ellis photography


Composition and lighting

Sophie Ellis has positioned the model in the exact middle of the photograph, and the models eyes are situated on the upper “rule of thirds”-horizontal line. Placing the main subject in the middle concentrates the focus on the model and her expression. This doesn’t work in all photos, but in this particular case, it intensifies the models gaze, and makes sure that the viewers eyes don’t wander around the photograph.



By taking a look at the models eyes, we see the catchlights (see last weeks article for more information about catchlights). They tell us that some sort of a light or a reflector has been used to fill in the shadows in the models face.



And by taking a look at the shadows that the fingers cast, we can guess the direction from where the light/reflector comes in. (The pink arrows)



Depth of Field (DOF)

Depth of field can be used to enhance the composition of a photograph. The magnitude of the sharp/blurred area is affected by the distance between the camera and the subject, the focal length used and aperture.

  • The closer the subject is to the camera, the more shallow the depth of field.
  • The longer the focal length, the more shallow the depth of field.
  • The larger the aperture (smaller the F-number – I always get mixed up with this one… :)), the more shallow the depth of field.

Let’s take a look at this photograph’s EXIF-information, that we can find from Flickr, by clicking on the “Actions”-button -> “View EXIF-info”



From the EXIF-data we see that the photographer has used a 85mm f1.2 lens and the model was situated 1,89 meters away from the camera.



With the information that we just learned, we now understand why the background behind the model is so blurred. The focal length is pretty long and the aperture is very large (small f-number, in this case f1.2). These factors together produce a very shallow depth of field.

Shallow depth of field is usually used in portraits, as it helps in isolating the subject from background. By using shallow depth of field, the background is blurred and only the model appears sharp. Our eyes tend to concentrate first on the sharp areas of the photo; and this way the model gets all the attention.


The model’s pose



At a quick glance it might seem as if the model has positioned her hands and fingers randomly, but as we take a closer look, we understand that the fingers have likely been placed very deliberately in a way that encourages the viewer to concentrate on the models eye. The fingers act as the “leading lines” that lead the viewers focus to the point that we believe the photographer wants to bring out most, in this case (as almost always in portraits), the eyes of the subject.