The Me, Myself and I Project
By Dwight Arthur, 2011/03/01
A great portrait does more than show the subject's surface appearance: it digs deeper, proving a glimpse of the inner self. So what is revealed about me in these images taken recently at a lighting workshop? I wonder what thoughts run through your heads as you look at these three twins: Me, Myself and I, captured at a recent Photek lighting workshop?
The way this got started was that Mike Wanini, the photographer, sent me these images and I replied. We soon got talking about how we always see pictures of ourselves differently than others do. One of the main reasons for this is that we are used to seeing ourselves mostly in a mirror, so our face always looks backwards to us when viewing a photograph. I also mentioned that this is especially significant when a face is distinctly non-symmetrical, as is the case with my exceptionally warped mug.
In order to illustrate this point to Mike of the asymmetry of the human face I created two edited versions of his portrait of me: one which mirrors the left side and the other which mirrors the right. What I saw when I completed these images was simultaneously hilarious and disturbing. There before my eyes were Me; plus Myself, a hard-nosed megalomaniac, bent on crushing all opponents; and I, the wimpiest, most defeated, push-over of a man I've ever encountered...all originating from one image!
Subtle Facial Nuances Profoundly Influence Our Impressions
It's amazing how slight changes of facial appearance such as the width of a nose, the slope of a brow, or corner of a mouth can profoundly influence our perceptions of an individual. This is equally true when we assess the character of a person we are just meeting, or when reading the mood of a person we know very well. We are, as humans beings, ultra-sensitive to visual nuances of the face, so coming to an understanding of how lines, form, tone and texture all conspire to shape our audience's perceptions of our subject is a key aspect of mastering the art of portrait photography, and also has powerful implications for all other genres of photography.
The Me, Myself and I Invitation
I see many interesting avenues for inquiry arising from this particular trio of portraits which I want to explore: does our face reveal inner character at all, and does each side of our face actually reflect a different aspect of our personality? (Based on this set of images I kind of hope the answer is no!). Care to join me in this exploration? If so, please offer your comments on photos posted at the gallery or, if you have the necessary Photohop skills, then read the following directions and then upload your own Me, Myself and I images to the gallery I've created on the Photek Training Facebook page!
Step One: Capture
Create a portrait. The lighting you choose is up to you but I suspect that it will greatly influence results. In the sample the light is very stark and top-lit but you can try something more conventional if you wish. I think the drama of the light, and the slight offset positioning of it, does add to the dramatically different appearance of the left and right sides, as does the slightly off-set positioning of my face (note that I has no ears!).
Shoot a tightly framed vertical portrait. I'd suggest trying a fairly passive expression first and then experiment with smiles and more pensive expressions as well. Note that I'd suspect a slight change of subject's head or camera position up, down, left and right will also affect the outcome significantly.
If you want to really investigate the genuine influence of asymmetry of the face on perception a deliberately straight on shot with lighting also positioned directly in front of the subject, and the camera positioned at subject's eye level would be the most neutral, but probably not quite as fun as off-center positioning of any or all variables: I'd suggest you try a few of both.
Step Two: Create
Create Mirrored versions of your original photo in Photoshop. Simply open the Me photo in the edit window, select the left side of the face (with just a bit of extra area of the right side of the face included), copy and paste into a new document the same size as your original. Now position the pasted half on the left of the new document and then Duplicate the layer. Next flip the new duplicate layer over using Image/Rotate/Flip Layer Horizontal (Elements) or Edit/Transform/Flip Horizontal (CS). Move the flipped layer over to the right until it matches up nicely with the left side. Now zoom in and remove any overlap with a soft-edged eraser or layer mask to get a nice seamless blend. You may have to re-adjust the positioning of the right side left/right to get the best result. Now flatten the image and save it as Myself. In order to create the I image just repeat, using the right half of the original Me photo. Now create a composite of the three images like the sample photo.
Step Thee: Post
Once you have all three images completed post them on the Facebook gallery I've created for the rest of the world to enjoy! I can hardly wait to meet your inner selves that you've been keeping indoors for far too long.