CS178 Assignment 8 - Portraits and Light

A studio-lit portrait of Andrew. Photo by Elena Adams.


People are possibly the single most interesting subject to photograph. So for this last assignment, you'll be taking all the skills you've learned during the course and taking some portraits. You should think about lighting, backgrounds, depth of field, composition, and color, and you should (tastefully) touch up each photo in Photoshop. By now, many of these skills will come quite naturally to you.

If you find yourself without anyone willing to model for you this week, you can take a self-portrait for any of the requirements, which is an interesting type of photograph, and adds a degree of difficulty.

Similarly to last week, there are also a set of exam-style questions to exercise your understanding of light. This might seem like a lot of work, but we've given you more time than we usually do. This assignment is due Wednesday June 3 at midnight.


This week there are five photographic requirements, which are similar to previous weeks, and then some questions on light for you to work through.


  • Requirement 1: Indoor Traditional Portrait
    Take a portrait of someone using a traditional portait lighting setup as described in lectures (a key light, a fill light, and possibly a background light and accent/rim light). Unless you have some fancy lighting gear of your own, you should take this picture during section.
  • Requirement 2: Indoor Natural Light Portrait
    Take a portrait of someone indoors using only non-electric sources of light (a fireplace, candles, the sun, etc). You might want to arrange someone near a window. Think about the light in the same way as for the studio lighting, and comment on how you created a fill light, how you created a key light, etc.
  • Requirement 3: Outdoor Available Light Portrait
    Take a portrait of someone outdoors under available lighting only. Comment on what serves as the fill light and key light. If you like, you can also make this one a candid shot, in which the subject is not aware you're taking a photo (or at least appears to not be aware).
  • Requirement 4: Flash + Ambient
    Take a portrait which uses a combination of your camera's flash and ambient illumination. Again, comment on what serves as the key light and what serves as the fill light. Remember, you need not point the flash right at the subject - with a small hand-held mirror or white card you can bounce any camera's flash elsewhere.
  • Requirement 5: Non-photorealistic Combination
    This requirement is unrelated to portraiture, but we thought it would be fun to do while you're learning about image editing in lectures. Use a combination of photographs to create a single non-photorealistic image in Photoshop. You must use multiple photographs of different subjects (or the same subject from multiple points of view) as source images, and the result must look nonrealistic.
  • Requirement 6: Light Questions
    Head to this page and answer some questions on light. These questions are similar to those that will be in the final exam. You're welcome to discuss the questions in groups of up to three, but everyone needs to submit their own answers in their own words. Your answers to these questions are worth one third of the total grade on this assignment.

Upload your photos and add comments.

Upload your photos using the Picasa account you created in the first week to a public Picasa album titled "CS178 Assignment 8 - Portraiture". Add comments below each photo explaining what relevant camera settings you used and why, how you set up the lighting, any image processing done to the photograph afterwards, and most importantly, which requirement the photo covers.

Example Solution

We've put up an example solution to the photographic requirements in this assignment to both let you know what we expect, and hopefully also inspire you to take better photos than the TAs can. You don't have to meet the assignment requirements in the same way as we did - surprise us!

One caveat: In our example solutions we may reuse photos we already had lying around, or borrow photos from other people to illustrate a point. Don't do this - your work for each assignment should be done by you specifically for the course.

If you have questions or comments about the photos we used in the example solution, feel free to add them as comments below the corresponding photograph in Picasa Web, or to email us.


As usual, we will assign grades based on whether you met the requirements of the assignment. For each requirement, you'll be given a check for meeting the requirement, check-minus for not quite meeting the requirement, or check-plus if you do something spectacular that makes your grader's jaw drop.

The questions for requirement 6 will be graded according to their own scheme, with one point available per question.

Due Date

11:59PM, Wednesday, June 3, 2009

We will accept no late assignments or replacement photos after midnight on Sunday June 7. Here's the lateness policy from the course outline:

Since the assignments come in rapid succession, it is important that each be completed on time. Replacing photos after the deadline is not allowed, and will be treated as a violation of the honor code. To allow for unforeseeable circumstances, you will be allowed up to two weekdays of grace for up to two of your assignments. Beyond this, late assignments will be penalized by 10% of the grade for that assignment per weekday that they are late. Exceptions to this late policy will be made only in the case of a necessary (non-pleasure) trip approved in advance by the TA for your section, or severe illness. If you do not submit one of the assignments at all, you will fail the course, even if you are taking it pass/fail. In this case, or if you believe you are in danger of failing, it is your responsibility to come talk to us before the end of the course. Incompletes are given only in exceptional circumstances.


© 2009 Marc Levoy and Andrew Adams