Metaphysics of portraits


In our own daily life, acquaintances with people around us will grow over years. A month may pass with just nods and a smile before the first word is spoken. We do not have this luxury while travelling. So do we quote Andrew Marvell for consolation, “Had we but world enough and time”, and walk on? No, I’d “rather at once our time devour”. People are friendly as often as not, and the false starts leave you no worse than before.

In a walk through a market in Munnar, we stopped to talk to a fruit seller whose broken English was much better than our Malayalam. After a mundane little conversation about fruits, whether it is difficult to sell with this horrible inflation, and quenching some mutual curiosity about each other, I asked whether I could take a photo. He was fine with it.

I had a couple of problems with this portrait . The most obvious is that his face closed up and he stiffened. Conversation with him was not as forbidding as the face he presents to the camera. The second problem was the light. Not only was the surrounding light extremely harsh, but also the kiosk was covered over with a blue plastic sheet which put a unhealthy colour cast over everything. It took some time to control these issues. I liked the mirror behind, and tried to use it. I wonder whether this works.

Would you like to take this photo and try to do more with it? No copyright issues if you link back to this post.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. Oh my gosh, IJK! This photo is fabulous! I can’t decide if it is his face, the mirror or the lighting in the market…….. that blue-green tarp ties the photo all together and really makes that photo, I think! I would not change a thing! Thanks for joining in again this week! Cady

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve issued a challenge with your challenge response πŸ™‚

    I can’t resist responding. I agree, it is more challenging to take pictures of people with dark skin. Left to themselves, cameras will adjust to the average distribution of light and a bright background will create a silouhette effect. And then your blue tarp added it’s own complexity. I’m not an expert, but here are a few suggestions based on what I’ve done to ‘fix’ pictures.

    1. Adjust the exposure to your subject’s face. It will blow out your background but that’s ok, since you want to focus on the man
    2. His eyes are quite remarkable, so I would adjust the highlights to bring out the reflection.
    3. Crop out some of the blown background to balance the picture. Adding a dark vignette will salvage some details.
    4. If your tool allows, you can play with the hues & tints to lessen the blue cast
    5. After that’s all done, consider making it Black&White and playing a bit more with the details.
    And a tip for when your subject freezes up … keep on talking and taking pictures. I almost always throw away my first shots πŸ™‚

    for a look at what I’ve done using Window’s Photo editor, have a look here


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