Portraits-10 Techniques

Lighting: I experimented with lighting in this portrait of my friend. I turned the lights off and asked her to hold a box that had small holes on it with a flashlight behind it, which created those little bright circles on the wall. I had her to hold the box and flashlight to her right so there was the shadow of herself on the wall, as well as the shadow of her facial features on her face (e.g. nose). I had to adjust the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed to really show the lights and shadows; I had a medium ISO, low aperture, and a medium shutter speed because I wanted the picture to be dark but I needed to show the lights.

Playing with Eye Contact: For this portrait, I asked my friend to look into my camera. I had the lowest aperture because I wanted to only focus on her eyes and have the hairs and her ear blurred. There’s only her left eye in the picture because I thought it would be more interesting to only shoot half of the face.

Alter Your Perspective: This is a picture of my father playing his guitar. I asked him to play his guitar for this portrait because he enjoys playing guitar as a hobby and I wanted to show it through the picture. I changed my point of view in this picture. I had my father make his guitar facing towards the ceiling and I placed my camera near the “circular hole” of the guitar and got this shot. I had a low aperture and had my camera on manual focus so the picture is mainly focusing on my dad’s hands.

Framing: Before I took this picture, I really wanted to take a picture that shows framing but I didn’t come up with any ideas. I asked my friend to sit/lie on the stairs and look at my camera through the two small pillars. I was standing opposite to my friend and raised my camera up so that it seems like we are on the same level. I had a medium ISO since it wasn’t very bright in the house.

Introducing a Prop: I had my friend hold some flowers and asked her to look at the flowers. I chose a plain background because I wanted the photo to look simple. I really like this photo because it turned out to be what I imagined it would look like, and the picture looks quiet and peaceful. However, I think I should have moved the camera a little bit to the right side, so that my friend’s entire shoulder/body would be in the frame and not cut off.

Obscuring Part of Your Object: For this portrait, I asked my friend to wear a scarf and hold the scarf so it masked half of her face. I think one thing that this photo needs to improve on is that I should photoshop her hair (the small hairs) so that the photo would be cleaner, but I think the not-so-tidy hair would actually look good if we were outside, because it would then look casual and natural which creates a mood.

Playing with Backgrounds: For this picture, I had my friend hold the same flowers that she held in the other picture. Since flowers kind of represent peacefulness and quietness, I wanted a plain background that is not in any dark colors. I like this photo as well because it shows simplicity and I like all simple photos.

Taking a Series of Shots: The adorable little boy in these three photos is called Marcus and he is my favorite kid when we were taking portraits of the pre-k children. When I was taking these photos, I was sitting in front of him. I noticed the sunlight and wanted to include that in my photo. These three photos are kind of like a triptych. In the first photo, he was looking down, and he is looking at the camera in the middle photo, then he looked down again. I think this tip — taking a series of shots — is helpful because if you continue to take lots of photos, you will definitely end up with more good photos (and you will be able to create some diptychs and triptychs as well!).

Shooting Candidly: I shot this photo when he was playing with legos. Similar to the previous technique, this also means to shoot continuously. I always take photos horizontally, but I tried to shoot some vertical pictures when I was taking portraits. I think sometimes vertical photos look better than horizontal ones, because our view looking at the outside world from the humans’ eyes are more wide rather than thin and tall.

Filling the Frame: This is also Marcus my favorite kid :). He was talking to his teacher when I took this photo, and during the two sessions with the kids, I found out that he doesn’t smile very much, so I was very excited when he smiled and laughed as he talked to his teacher. I zoomed in to fill the frame. There’s also sunshine shining on half of his face so I thought it’s cool.


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An English scientist and astronomer called Sir John Herschel invented this process in 1842. Anna Atkins used it to create a series of books that documented plants. It was used initially for producing notes and diagrams, as in blueprints.
To create a cyanotype, we need to invert a picture to its negative, and print out that image on a transparency sheet. Then, we need to mix potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate and coat a watercolor paper with the mixture. Put the paper in a dark place to let it dry. After the paper is dried, secure the transparency sheet to the paper and expose it under light for 1 to 2 hours. Then, wash off with running water for a few minutes and coat the paper with hydrogen peroxide. At last, wash the paper again and let it dry.
It is the first time that I heard the term “cyanotype” and it is my first time trying to create cyanotypes. I enjoyed washing off the chemicals after the watercolor paper was exposed under sunlight, because this step is when we see the final product and I was always very excited and curious about how my final product looked like.
I think the process is pretty simple and easy, so I don’t think there was anything challenging to me.
One tip that I would give someone who was making a cyanotype for the first time is that it is the best to really secure your transparency sheet to the watercolor paper. This is because if you don’t secure it well, your transparency sheet might move slightly when they are being exposed, which will result in not having a sharper cyanotype.

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Field Trip

We went on a field trip to the Gulou District in Beijing to take street photos. It was very interesting to see how the locals at the Gulou district lives, since where we are living now has been modernized and our lives have been modernized as well. I’ve rarely been to the hutong areas, and many of them were, or will be destructed soon for building more skyscrapers; therefore, I think it’s very worthy to go to one of the hutong area before it is destroyed. There were several techniques that worked out for me. For instance, leading lines worked well when I was taking pictures of the narrow hutongs beside the streets, because the walls were coming towards each other which creates leading lines and let our eyes focus on the point where the lines come together. Reflection also worked well when we were at Houhai. I kept in mind that I need to take lots of photos in order to have 30 good photos that I can post on flickr. What surprised me the most on the field trip was that there were people jumping into Houhai and swim. It’s already autumn and the weather’s cold but people — they looked like they were 50 or 60 years old — went into Houhai to swim. The challenge on the trip was that I was afraid and felt awkward to ask locals if I could take photos of them. For street photography, I learned that if we try different angles and point of view when we are taking pictures, we will get more interesting shots. The most important thing that I learned during this field trip is also that trying different angles of shot will help us to get more creative photos.


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Aperture is a hole where lights enters through the camera. By altering the size of that hole (the “pupil” of the camera), we can control the amount of light that goes into the camera. When you have a smaller aperture, less light will go into your camera; when you have a larger aperture, more light will go into your camera. You will use a higher aperture when your surroundings are lighter, for example, you will want to use a high aperture when you are outside in bright daylight; or you want to have a greater depth of field where everything in the picture is sharp and focused (e.g. you will have a higher aperture when you are taking landscape photos) You will use a lower aperture when your surroundings are darker, for instance, you will use a low aperture at night where there isn’t much light; and you will use a lower aperture when you want to have a shallow depth effect where the background is very blurry (e.g. portraits, etc.). When you are in bright sunlight, you wouldn’t want to use low aperture and low shutter speed, because then the photo might be over-exposed since there are too much light let in. Therefore, when you have a low aperture, you would want to either make the shutter speed faster or lower the ISO so less light will be let in. Understanding the role of aperture will help me to correctly adjust the exposure of the photo and I can take more interesting photos (shallow depth/wide depth).

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ISO is one of the elements in the exposure triangle along with aperture and shutter speed. It refers to the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to the amount of light given where you are taking the picture. ISO determines the exposure of a picture. As shown in the collage above, a high ISO will result in a photo that has a high exposure, in contrast, a low ISO will result in a photo that has a low exposure.

Usually we use the lowest ISO since the photo might be very “noisy” (has a lot of grain) if we turned the ISO too high. However, you would use a higher ISO when you are at a place where there isn’t much light, so you want the sensor of your camera to absorb as much light as possible. You would use a lower ISO when you are outside where it’s really bright.

Using a high ISO will add lots of noise to the photo, so the photo will end up looking grainy. Therefore, if it isn’t very dark, don’t use high ISO.

Understanding ISO will help us to let the photo have the correct exposure so we won’t need to spend too much time on editing the exposure of a photo.

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1 object / 30times

1 object/30 times is a project where we bring a 3D object that is in an interesting and unique form and take 30 different pictures of it using the compositional guidelines. The purpose of this assignment is to let us become more familiar with the compositional guidelines, so that we will be able to use it and think about it more when we are taking pictures in the future. It is important to understand the compositional guidelines because as I wrote earlier, we can take more photos that have higher quality using the compositional guidelines. If we understood and knew clearly about how to use compositional guidelines when we are taking pictures, then through practice, we will automatically think about how to compose photos and take photos that shows the guidelines. In my opinion, the most challenging part of this assignment was to take 30 pictures of the same object. This was the most challenging part of this assignment for me because we need to think a lot about how to compose the picture to make it different from the other 29 photos of that same object; we needed to think about the angles, background, foreground, colors, and all those things that would make the pictures different. The “big takeaway” from this assignment was that I learned about compositional guidelines which I didn’t know before. In the survey that we completed at the start of the year, I wrote I want to learn how to compose pictures; and now I’ve learned the compositional guidelines which will help me a lot when I’m taking photos in the future.

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Setting: Creative Writing


At 6 pm, grey, heavy clouds enveloped the bright, morning sunshine in London. The sun was hidden; and the sky seemed like it was falling down. The houses were shrouded by mist. Rain came down in a few minutes. The people who were on the streets ran into buildings to avoid getting wet. Tree branches swung gently with the wind. London was surrounded by darkness very soon; street lights opened their eyes one by one slowly. The busy but quiet city was soon bright again. The rain pitter-pattered, creating a pleasant song on the roof right above me. I lied on the violet colored bed and stared at the silver chandelier that hung from the purple ceiling, thinking about my parents. The house always felt so empty since my dad and brother moved away three weeks ago. I sat up; the plates of food on the rectangular desk chilled seven hours ago.

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The Principles Of Design

The principles of design show us how artists use the elements of art in art works. There are 7 principles of design: balance, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm, variety & unity, and contrast. A work of art that is balanced creates visual equilibrium. In symmetrical balance, the two sides of the artwork are similar. In asymmetrical balance, the elements on two sides of the artwork might be different but still looks balanced. In radial balance, the elements are arranged equally around a central point. Emphasis is created when the author wants to let the audience focus on a particular object and let it stand out among the other objects in the artwork. The emphasized object may be different in size, color, texture, shape, etc. Movement is the line/path that the audience’s eyes will travel on the artwork. Pattern is the repetition of an object, symbol, or color all over a piece of artwork. Rhythm is also the repeating of elements but rhythm creates movement. Contrast is shown when something on the work of art is different than another. Colors and elements can both create contrast. Unity and variety

In my perspective, the principles of design and the elements of art help us when critiquing artworks in similar ways. Because the principles of design also offer help for us to look at one specific area of the photo, letting us to look at the photograph more specifically. It also helps us to look at a photo from different perspectives.

What I learned from this activity is that it is not easy to compose a photo that showcases one or two of the principles of design. For instance, I think movement and rhythm are the most difficult principles to use. When I was trying to take photos using those two principles, I didn’t know where and how I should take the photos. However, it might because of the fact that we have a limited space to take photos — we were only walking around the school and taking pictures of different objects and places in the school.

My favorite photo expresses the principle of balance. It showcases asymmetrical balance, where the elements on the two sides are not equal. It is asymmetrical balance because the sunshine only shone on the left side of the photo, making only the floor on the left side lighter than the other places in the picture. It also only made the left foot of the rabbit lighter than the other places. It is taken at my house instead of the school because I didn’t take a good quality photo using balance in the school. I like this photo the most because it creates a mood and it maybe makes the audience feel that the rabbit is kind of lonely just sitting by itself on the floor. The sunshine also makes the picture look like it’s taken in the afternoon where the sun is about to go down and become evening.

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The Burning House Project

Name: Paulina L
Age: 14
Location: Beijing, China
Occupation: Student
Website: https://www.instagram.com/paulina.lai/
Clothes: Just in case it’s cold (?)
Phone: To call for help
Earphone: I like to listen to music and it calms me down
Computer: There are lots of photos and memories that I don’t want to lose
Pencil Case: It’s a gift from one of my best friends who already went to America

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The Elements of Art

The Elements of Art includes elements that are displayed and used in a painting/drawing or a picture. There is a total of 7 elements: line, shape, form, space, color, texture, and tone/value. Lines are marks that has greater length compared to its width. Shapes are geometric shapes that are formed by lines and are closed. But there are also organic shapes that are free-form shapes. Shapes display length and width of objects. Forms are 3D objects that showcases length, width, and depth. Space is the empty area around and between objects. The space around objects are called negative space; when there is depth or illusion in a picture, we also call it space. Colors are lights reflecting off objects and there are three main characteristics of color — hue, value, and intensity. Texture is the surface quality that is seen or felt. The texture that you see might be different than what you feel about it when you touch it. Tone/value is how light or dark the color is. Tone/value often creates mood and atmosphere of a picture.

The elements of art are helpful when we are learning how to discuss and critique photography because it makes critiquing photography easier by narrowing down to one perspective each time when we use one element to look at a photograph. Therefore, we can look at different aspects of a photo and see what are the positive things about this photo and what are the negative things. Using the elements of art will help us look deeper into the photo and analyze more specifically rather than just looking at the photo and looking at what stands out the most to you.

From this activity, I reviewed the elements of art and had a deeper understanding of it comparing to the past. Also, I learned how to use the elements of art to take photos, because I only have used it to create an artwork (paintings/drawings). From now on I think I will be able to look at objects, connect them to the elements of art, and take better pictures.

My favorite photo is this photo of the wall outside the swimming pool in our school. It displays tone. I added a black and white filter to build up more contrast between the lightness and darkness in this photo. The reason why this picture uses the element tone/value is that the left side of the picture has a darker color and the more to the right the more light the color becomes, till it fades to completely white. In my opinion, the tone in this picture builds up a mood/atmosphere of solitude, because when black and white are together it always doesn’t mean happiness. Moreover, this picture also displays the element texture, because the wall isn’t completely flat and there is a thin groove on the wall. The texture looks a bit rough. The groove part of the wall might be wooden since there are light straight lines on it, while the other parts of the wall might just be made by concrete.

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