In Dawoud Bey’s Class Pictures, he balances his subject in his pictures. The expression of the subject is looking straight at the camera. The subject either has a calm, serious, or calm expression. Also, the gestures that the subject relays, it makes the photograph feel natural. As well as the subject does not fill the frame, there is space to view the background and environment where the subject is. It is a balance between the foreground and the background. Moreover, the lighting on the subject is on their side and a few subjects are near a wall that reflects light and lightens the shadow of the subject. Lastly, to approach portrait photography is to make emphasize your subject based on the background or location you’re placing them in. As well as their gestures and how they are dressed, create a balance of the background and the foreground. The subject is the main focus but as well as their gestures and posture that give meaning or a message in the photograph.
As you say these are environmental portraits-meaning portraits shot in a place that is important for the meaning of the photograph-portraits of high school students taken at their schools. But Bey also keeps what might be a chaotic environment from being distracting. An important tool that he uses to do this is shallow depth of field. He also uses lighting effectively to bring our attention to the students.
And technically, bouncing the light off a wall to create fill is a great way to work especially when you are in a smaller room and do not have room for a second light.
What might you use of Bey’s techniques as you shoot portraits?