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[Part 1] Use a Secondary Subject to Bring Out the Main Subject

When you are shooting something, it is just as important to be precisely aware of the secondary subjects as it is to focus on the main subject that you want to take. This is so because having good secondary subjects will clearly make the main subject more captivating. (Reported by: Ikuko Tsurumaki)

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A secondary subject expands the work’s worldview

I came across the portrait of a woman being displayed in a street corner show window one day, and I thought of capturing the woman gazing at the street outside in an image that would resemble a scene from a sci-fi movie.

I shot the woman’s face while searching for a camera position that would allow for just the right amount of reflection of the sky, the trees lining the road and the buildings nearby to be seen in the glass. While the main subject of the photo was the woman’s face, the impression of the woman’s eyes and her presence could be enhanced by deliberately hiding half her face. This resulted in an atmosphere that makes you feel as though the woman is looking out onto a surreal world.

[Example 1]

A: (Main subject) Face of woman

B: (Secondary subject) Reflection of the street

EOS 6D/ EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM/ FL:70mm/ Aperture Priority AE(f/4 , 1/800 sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Auto

A fantastic world view can be created by mixing and combining the street scenery reflected in the glass with the portrait of the woman inside the show window.

The key lies in the camera position when making the reflection a secondary subject, because the reflection changes substantially depending on the position of the camera. In this case, I wanted to capture the chaotic street scene outside in the reflection so as to let the viewer feel the bustling mood of the city. Care was required as the resulting effect would appear incomplete if the reflection around the area of the woman’s hair was too faint. Since the portrait of the woman was in monochrome, I also added colour to the picture by incorporating the reflection of the blue sky so as to express the main and secondary subjects in different colours.

Adjust the reflection by adjusting the camera position

I thought of taking a photo of the woman gazing outside from inside the show window. The shooting angle is important in ensuring that the reflection of the street is at the desired position.

The picture becomes descriptive if the main subject is cut out

[Example 2]

A: (Main subject)

B: (Secondary subject) Building reflection

EOS 6D / EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM / FL: 57mm /Aperture Priority AE (f/4 , 1/800 sec, EV+0.7) / ISO 400 / WB: Auto

Example 2 shows a close-up shot of the woman’s face with just a little bit of the building reflected in the lower left corner as a secondary subject. This is a descriptive work that is very similar to a duplication. If you do not clearly distinguish what is being shot to a certain extent, you will not be able to convey the two subjects: the woman and the street. Therefore, unlike the first example, this work will have a totally different nuance to it.

In the second example, while boldly capturing a close-up of the woman’s face, I also emphasized the shadow of the portrait. The dark area is further accentuated by making use of the dark reflection in the background. The shooting position has been adjusted so that the reflection does not fall onto the face. To create a feel that is more akin to street photography, it is probably good to include the window frame or consciously shoot the image from an oblique angle.

Ikuko Tsurumaki

Born in Tokyo in 1972, Tsurumaki started learning photography while working with an advertising agency, and became a photographer after her career as an assistant. She is currently engaged in activities including photo shoots for magazines, writing articles, and conducting photography lectures and seminars.

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