UNIT 3 Chapter 1

Irving Penn


Irving Penn was born on June 16, 1917, in Plainfield, New Jersey. When training for a career as an art director, Irving worked the last two summers for Harper’s Bazaar magazine as an apprentice artist and office boy, sketching shoes. At this point in life, he had no aspiration to become a photographer.

Penn soon started to show real promise in the photography scene as he started to experiment with his inventiveness.

I’ve been looking a lot at Irving Penn’s photography on portraits of famous figures. I have found how his photograph’s look really ‘true to life’, they don’t seem to be airbrushed or enhanced in any way to ‘improve’ the subjects. However, the images seem to have the opposite effect, the images have a lot of definition in the pores, wrinkles and creases in the subjects face to show the as ‘real’ people, to me it shows how they’re not perfect and they have imperfections.

I took this style and applied this to my own subjects and decided to do a shoot with a few subjects and really capture their personality and imperfections which I could really bring out in the editing stage, I was able to create some moody scenes with the lighting in my scene as well.

I like this photo for its use of monochromatic colour scheme as it forces the viewer to focus on the meaning and reason behind the photography.

WEB_DAN4897I also find the lighting in the photography very interesting as it seems very ambient in the scene but it is mixed with a direction light from the left-hand side.

I have done research on the black and white portraits photos by Irving Penn, as I love the use of definition and detail in his photography work because it can really show off the expression and character in someone’s face.

In this Pinterest board, I have posted photographs by Irving Penn that really capture me and that really stand out to me with their blend of composition and meaning behind eat photograph.

AO2 Photo Edits

Here I have a time-lapse of me editing some photos I have taken in a previous shoot, I use very simple techniques of changing the highlights and contrast, I also add what’s known as a ‘Definition’ filter which creates, even more, contrast in the image and on the subjects face.


For my shoot I based it on the detail and definition Irving Penn achieves with a mix of lighting and editing.



The setup I used for my lighting is really basic and simple, all I’m using is a direct light to create contrast on the left side of my subjects face and an ambient diffused light on the upper right to give some highlights to the images.


I used some basic settings on my camera to achieve my photos in the shoot. I used a low ISO of around 160 so the image itself wasn’t grainy and had smooth and clear blacks. I also used a low f-stop of 1.8/f to give a really shallow depth of field and to draw the viewers attention to the detailed areas in focus.

Contact sheet

Contact Sheet

Edited Photos

Final Photos

These are my final photos for my Irving Penn chapter, I have chosen each of these images as I think they’re my best and I have helped show the style and technique Irving Penn uses.

Irving Penn & Martin Schoeller

On the left is a photograph by Irving Penn and on the right a modern photograph by Martin Schoeller. Both of these images have similar qualities such as the composition, for example the use of symmetry and both images have something on one side of the image to balance them out, on the left image the woman has her hand on her right side of her face, and on the right image there is part of the subject’s dress on her left to balance it out. However, on the left image Irving Penn has used more space in the image leaving less negative space filling out the entire photograph. The main difference I can tell between each photography is not the Black and White filter, It is in fact the use of depth of field, Martin Schoeller’s photograph has a shallower depth of field and it seems to drive the views attention towards the from of the subjects face creating more detail and depth to her face. But on the other hand Irving Penn’s photography is in black and white and has a larger area in focus which allows for more detail in the image, but because of the black and white the subjects features stick out more due to the increase in contrast.


Faces Shoot

I did a final shoot of my Grandad as I needed someone who has some very interesting and unique facial features to set these photos apart from others I have taken. I experimented loads of different shots and different lighting conditions to achieve the photos I was looking for. The first lot of photos I took in a dimly lit room with normal fluorescent lighting and the images came out really blurry and orange. So, I then went on to take some photos in front of a Christmas tree to achieve some bokeh in the images.

Contact sheet

I took over 200 photos for this shoot and tried to get a variety of shots in different settings. The photos which I felt were the best I have edited with different processes to get a range of results

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 10.26.06Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 10.24.53

These are only a few of my final photos and I applied a black and white filter on both and one I tried to create a really harsh contrast betwee the blacks and white and on the other create a softer feel by enhancing the mid tones.

Final Images

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