OK you win. 😀 Vox populis has spoken. I don’t think I have ever received so many e-mails and comments urging me to give the *ooof* treatment to a particular photo. Tbh, my first reaction was the same.
@Hariclea dafuqqqqqqqqqqq!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What’s that? Where does that come from???????? emergency *ooof*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
— Guylty Pleasure (@GuyltyPleasure) October 16, 2014
This is an emergency response – and therefore quick and cursory. And an extra, too, because I usually do not do amateur photos. Sorry, not being condescending here, but considerate: It’s simply not fair to analyse a snapshot with professional standards at the back of my mind. Plus, amateur photography is not as deliberately taken as pro shots, so much of what comes across technically may only be fluke. So my rule is “pro work only”. But well, what are rules made for but to be broken. I bow to the wishes of my readers. 😀
So, today I am not taking the detour through my trusty notebook for the composition of this *ooof*, but I am typing straight in. However, I feel emotionally raw here, my personal reaction to the tweets and selfie is contradictory. From the initial “whoa” to a huffy “dafuq” in less than ten seconds. The picture itself is nice – an unusually good selfie, which I will discuss in a mo – but the tweeting of a selfie leaves me insulted. I mean, is Armitage branching into photography now? Back off, Armitage, photography is *my* area of expertise! I can’t stand competition from my own ranks. Then the manipulative character of the whole thing – a week and a half of grainy, underexposed Armitage teasers from the set of Sleepwalker, and all of a sudden a beauty shot. Ugh. I am disgusted with my own gullibility.
I need a fag. In times of stress and emotional extremes it is so hard to withstand the lure of drugs – I just can’t *ooof* this thing without the soothing sizzle of my Pepsi Max by my side.
This is the
bone of contention image in question:
A classic selfie. Armitage poses for his own camera phone. And he does it well
Guylty grudgingly concedes. In a portrait format frame, he has captured a head and shoulders view of himself. With his head at an angle in the upper right corner of the image, Armitage manages a very pleasing composition for an impromptu self-portrait. With the bottom half of the image mostly taken up by the dark expanse of his Varvatos “threads”, his face provides the focal point of the picture. In the top left corner, the busy background battles for our attention. The distracting background is typical for a selfie – taken on the spur of the moment, the selfie-taker rarely concentrates on the background when checking himself in the live view before releasing the shutter. Let’s face it: We only concentrate on ourselves in selfies and all other images we are contained in, vainly making sure we look good. Are the eyes open? Is the angle flattering to the facial bone structure? Is the double chin hidden? Check – check – check – click.
So Armitage has managed to compose a pleasing self-portrait with a composition that provides negative space in the form of the black coat in the bottom half, and splashes of colour in the top half. The image, although marred by the visible background on the top left, still maintains an interesting tension between the negative space and the area of interest. Some of that is due to the diagonal tilt of Armitage’s head. Not only does this give a dynamic feel to the image – we are led to think that he is leaning forward, not quite static, but subtly moving – but the angle of the head in the composition also works in contradiction to our normal world view where gravity rules and by default human faces are characterized by horizontal and vertical lines, i.e. the line of the eyes and the line of the nose. The tilted head upsets this normal – boring – representation of a human face. The pose adds tension and interest to the image.
But who am I kidding. It is neither composition nor pose that has ovaries exploding far and wide. It is the sitter contained in the image himself, and Armitage has captured himself with a nice facial expression that would work equally devastatingly well if he had held his pretty head straight. It’s the sparkling eyes and the demurely closed mouth, and the semblance of an amused smile under the slightly ironically cocked left eyebrow that speak to us. It directly appeals to our imagination. What was he thinking when he took this picture? What was the motivation for a selfie like this? Is he smiling at us in friendliness or in irony? Where was he? What happened before and after he took the shot? Did somebody observe him? Was he aware of that? What did it make him feel like?
I almost prefer not to go that way and concentrate on the technical aspects instead.
Otherwise it just gets too close to the bone, I am afraid. Unfortunately Twitter strips all meta data from images that are uploaded onto the service. However, it is clear to me that Armitage did not merely release the shutter and uploaded the pic. No. Mr Vanity actually gave himself the image a little make-over. He put it through an editing app. There are several indicators. The main clue is the interesting depth of field that has been added to the image. Shallow depth of field – or in laymen’s terms: the blur in front or behind a sharply pictured subject in an image – does not occur in iPhone imagery because the iPhone lacks manual aperture control. The camera of the iPhone 5, for instance, although pretty capable and drawing on 8 mega pixels, only shoots with one aperture setting. At f 2.4 it is actually really small (which on a regular camera would cause *really* shallow dof), however, it works with a small camera sensor and therefore has the opposite effect. Everything in the frame stays in focus.
Assuming that Armitage is still using an iPhone (he certainly used one while he was filming TH – he was captured in PJ’s vlog taking pictures with his iPhone on location, and the rule of thumb is “once an Apple user, always an Apple user”…), he must have done some sort of work-around to get the interesting effect his selfie displays: Note how everything in the image is out of focus except for the area around his left eye. (Caveat – even his left eye is not completely sharp, either, but let’s put that down to either camera shake or generally lower quality of sharpness that a camera phone can produce.) The iPhone’s own editing tool does not provide blur capabilities, but apps such as Instagram or Snapseed do. However – it’s an extra step added to the quick and impromptu process of selfie-taking. Methinks, Mr Armitage suffers from vanity 😉 But well, it is all for the sake of producing a pleasing image. The use of the blur tool really adds to the image and enhances it. By blurring out the coat and the backdrop, Armitage draws the attention to his eye. And boy, yes, don’t we all like to get lost in the depth of those windows to the soul???
The focal point is his left eye, so, and it is not just the sharpness centring on the eye that enhances the picture but also the blue of the iris that makes the image pop. To me that suggests that another filter may have been used – iPhone pics are usually not that good on small colour pops, and neither does skin colour translate as pinky-browny as in this image. Here, even the simple iPhone editor would add that kind of colour compensation with a tap on the “Chrome” filter… But really – that much work for a simple selfie? Well, let’s interpret it this way: Mr Armitage, ever keen on pleasing his fans, is doing all he can to produce a picture worth seeing by his devoted well-wishers. How nice of him. (Better not tell him that we generally seem to like everything he does and produces, anyway…) I look forward to further improvements.
“Seriously, Elliott”, the man grumbled at his director, shaking his head in exasperation, “I’ve been getting complaints here on Twitter about the quality of your Twitter pictures of me.” He pointed at the iPhone in his hand. “It’s all very well that we have to keep teasing the public about your film, but this is getting annoying. I have 45k followers, you know.” Another notification flashed over the screen of his iPhone while he was speaking. “There! Speak of the devil.” He sighed. His director was unmoved. “That’s the game, Richard”, he said. “But hey, feel free to do your own thing”, the director shrugged. Richard was not so sure about that after an initial disaster with an unintended centerfold image that had launched his Twitter career months ago.
The two men were having lunch during a pause on a day-time shoot. The director busied himself with his food again, taking a hearty bite off the healthy sandwich. “Really, this just won’t do”, Richard mumbled. “I’m known for looking after my fans. I better give ’em something before my phone explodes.” iPhone in hand Richard got up from the table. “See ya on set in ten”, he said and ambled off. He was going to put an end to this. “Give ’em what they want. I’ll do a quick selfie. That’ll shut them up”, he thought. “Sure, it’s only gonna take a minute.”
He opened the iPhone while absent-mindedly walking to a quiet corner of the catering area sheltered by cheerfully glowing drinks dispensers that created a U-shaped area. No crew members and colleagues to be seen. Good opportunity to get it over and done with. He turned his back to the drinks machines and pointed the iPhone at himself. Click. “Shit. Forgot to switch the camera around.” He impatiently tapped on the screen and held the camera phone away from himself again. Click. A blurry picture of his bearded mug appeared on the screen. “What the…”, he swore. This was harder than anticipated. Honestly, he had never given photography much thought. Apart from shooting with his favourite photographer, shoots were always a bit of a chore. “You would think I’d have a clue after observing photographers prancing around me for ten years”, he shook his head at his cluelessness. “How does this selfie business work?”
He stretched out his arm with the camera once again. Click. Half-closed eyes. He looked like a somnambulist. “How fitting”, he grimaced. Delete. “Ok, eyes open now”, he stared unblinkingly at the little eye of the camera phone. Cl… “Hi Richard – doing some experimenting?” …ick. Damn, the passing crew member had made him turn his head just as he was releasing the shutter. Delete. Camera back in position, chin up, smile. Click. Too arrogant a look, he wanted to come across as the people’s heart-throb, not a dickhead. Delete. He tried more, dissatisfied with the results. Blurry, fat. And more. Closed eyes, overexposed, cut off head. And more. One-handed release, two-handed release. No joy. “I need help.”
He closed the camera app and opened the browser of his phone. “HOW TO TAKE SELFIE” he typed into the search box. A list of links appeared on the screen. He tapped on the first. “Now… Number 1 – rule of thirds. Don’t place your face in the centre of the image. Number 2 – Choose a flattering angle. Number 3 – Don’t put shoulders parallel to camera. Number 4 – Jut out jaw to avoid double chin…”, he scoffed. “No problem there, mate”, he smugly thought. “Beard covers blub. Number 5 – crop close to your head. Number 6 – Stand near a light source.” This went on and on…
Perusing the tips Richard was unaware of the group of colleagues that had gathered in the canteen. “Shit, nearly ten minutes gone”, he thought. “Must get back to the set. Let’s put it into practice then.” He held the phone out again and looked at himself in the live view. Head in upper left corner. Shoulders hunched left, head tilted, chin out, light source covered. Click. He impatiently opened the photo view to check the result. A smile lit up his knitted brows. “Yes”, he hissed under his breath, “this will do”. He nearly dropped the phone when spontaneous applause erupted around him. “Well done Richard.” “Your new profile picture?” “Say, that took really long, didn’t it?” “A Vanity project?” “Can we see it, too?” The crew was having a field day with his selfie antics. “All in the name of fan-star-relations”, he grinned. One out of 50. He’d have to work on his hit rate.