Controlled shadow in photography : the development of a technique for child portraiture
This research deals with both the cultural and technical aspects of the use of controlled shadow in child portraiture. This study was contextualised by setting it in a theoretical framework of visual culture, and by exploring the connotations of shadow in western culture. The theoretical framework provided by visual culture suggested that the way in which shadow is interpreted is dependent on the context in which it is set, and, in the context of child portraiture in particular, shadow tends to be avoided in commercial shoots. As the commercial viability of photography depends on the public being comfortable with the images produced, child photographs are usually staged or touched up to ensure that no sinister or foreboding connotations might be conveyed by shadow. While the use of harsh shadow is generally not aesthetically pleasing, and obscures the very lineaments which personalise and animate images, it was the contention of this study that use of controlled shadow might add depth and character to portraiture, and has the potential to create aesthetically pleasing effects in child photography. The empirical work explored both the cultural and technical aspects of photography. The cultural aspects, relating to the potentially undesirable aspects of photography, were explored in questionnaires and surveys carried out with groups of practising professional photographers and parents of young children. The technical aspects were explored by developing a technique for achieving pleasing aesthetic effects in child portraiture by use of controlled shadow, using the soft shadows cast by natural objects or those associated with play. The results suggest that photographers would be willing to use a technique such as that developed, provided that the results were acceptable to their clients, and thus commercially viable; the parent responses suggest that clients would find child portraits with controlled shadow aesthetically pleasing.