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Thread: First Attempts at Portraiture

  1. #1
    spngr311's Avatar
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    First Attempts at Portraiture

    All,

    I recently tried portraiture for the first time. My wife was a semi-willing subject, but is definitely more comfortable with it after seeing some of the shots. Initially we tried to get some shots at the beach, but I couldn't get the shot composed right (early morning) and it was way too hot out already. We came back to the house and set up there. These were shot with a 70-200 f2.8 at between 135 and 200 and 2.8 and 4. I had a flash on the ground facing the wall behind her on low power on a wireless trigger, a flash to camera right bounced off the ceiling at low power on a wireless trigger. She was positioned with a sliding glass door about a foot to camera left, just in front of her. I had a white reflector, but I had it on the wrong side (it is on camera right, should've been on camera left I think). She requested a fan to blow her hair. Please let me know what I can do to improve my photography on these shots.

    As shot:

    First Attempts at Portraiture

    Processed and Cropped:

    First Attempts at Portraiture

    Original:

    First Attempts at Portraiture

    Processed and Cropped:

    First Attempts at Portraiture

    Original:

    First Attempts at Portraiture

    Processed and Cropped:

    First Attempts at Portraiture

    Original:

    First Attempts at Portraiture

    Processed and Cropped:

    First Attempts at Portraiture

    For post-processing, I followed Scott Kelby's directions in his CS3 book for skin smoothing (guassian blur, layer mask, high pass and soft light).

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    Re: First Attempts at Portraiture

    Hi Rob
    For a first attempt I think you should be very proud.

    I am sure that Colin will have some better critical comments to make but to me the lighting looks pretty good and well balanced for a two light set up.

    My only criticism is that i think the shots would have looked better with a darker background. Your wife has a fair complexion and with the blonde hair too it all seems to get a bit washed out in the background.

    Number 2 is definitely my favourite. Lovely shot.

    Cheers
    Steve

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    Re: First Attempts at Portraiture

    Hi Rob,

    To my eye, the lighting is far too even - and thus has resulted in what we call "flat" lighting. With some subjects you can get away with it - but your lovely wife has quite a round face shape, and flat lighting isn't particularly flattering to that kind of face shape.

    In contrast (pun intended ), take a look at this shot. This has what we call a very high contrast ratio - and I'm not suggesting that you need anywhere near this much contrast - but take a look at how it sculpts the face ...

    First Attempts at Portraiture

    Probably the other point I'd mention is that - personally - I feel that straight headshots often have a "passport photo" feel to them - I think that - at a minimum - if you include at least a portion of shoulder, then you can start introducing addional angles and relationships between them, eg ...

    First Attempts at Portraiture

    Also - not sure if you're seen these at all, but I wrote a "school of portraiture" series a while back - you might find some value in these, if you haven't seen them already.

    With regards to background colour ... the eye is naturally drawn to the brightest thing in an image - and when that's a LOT of white background, it often proves to be more of a distraction. As a guideline, I tend to use white backgrounds for folks with dark hair colour, and vice-versa (it gives EXCELLENT isolation to the face). And if one does use a white background, keep the white space to a minimum, eg

    First Attempts at Portraiture

    Hope this helps
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 12th July 2011 at 10:13 AM.

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    Re: First Attempts at Portraiture

    Hope you don't mind ...

    First Attempts at Portraiture

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    spngr311's Avatar
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    Re: First Attempts at Portraiture

    Thanks guys, that is some very helpful advice.

    Steve, I agree with your assessment. My next set with her will have a darker background - probably hang a something black behind her if we stay inside.

    Colin, I was hoping you'd chime in. I didn't want to clutter the portrait school threads because most of them are older and I feel I am starting from scratch. Your threads actually inspired me to give this a shot, unfortunately, I only managed to get through reading all (your initial posts and all the replies in them) of the first two threads. Still working through the rest! I didn't think of cropping it tighter - and think that is an excellent suggestion for the pictures I have. My wife will be happy to hear about what you said regarding my lighting and adding more contrast (she is always self conscious of her round face). I was very concerned with the poses, that part is probably harder than the technical aspects of the photography (lighting, exposure, etc.). I will have to try out all of these tips.

    That edit is very helpful. That subtle vignette really helps the image. Also, the added contrast and tilt really help it out a lot.

    Again, thank you both very much.

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    Re: First Attempts at Portraiture

    Wow...

    The ART of Portraits... tuff disipline (23 years of it)!!!

    Couple things if noticed:

    too frontal for her face type, use a 3/4 view

    too close / short lens - use a longer lens and move away from her

    tilt the head a bit, that's says "I'm intrested in you"

    work a bit with hair / cosmetics... I use my daughters who are masters of "the-look"

    Try complimentary colors with make-up / eyes / garments - work them together

    Shooting a bit up make the model "superior" and shooting a bit down makes the model submissive"

    Are you left handed? your wife's shots have her nose pointing to the right (this says "look with me" ) vs a more std of to the left (that says "look at me).


    Sooooo

    back away
    use a greater telephoto POV
    shoot from 3/4 view
    Color co-ordinate
    and left or right looking
    shoot a bit wider according to face / hair structures
    _______________________

    I started and still prefer outdoor portraits for a TON of simple reasons

    good start...

    remember: people, up close an be tuff


    paul

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    spngr311's Avatar
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    Re: First Attempts at Portraiture

    Thanks Paul for the response - your points are very useful.

    Posing people is really hard, there definitely is an art to it - I'll try these tips next time around, now that I have an idea of where to start.

    The complimentary color issue was a something I did not really think about. I was trying to stay with black or white to keep there from being any color cast back on her from her clothing. However, I think I am going to let her do what she deams fit. I think this caused her some issues with choosing make-up.

    I didn't even think about that issue with shooting up or down, but I see this and will experiment with it. Probably combine this with the tips from Colin.

    The reason for the left/right facing images was related to the layout of our house and where I positioned her. I just adapted to what was there. I didn't realize that the direction conveyed all that - I'm an engineer, so subtle meanings like that blow right by me sometimes!

    I was shooting with a 70-200 f2.8 at between 135-200 and f2.8-f4. I think it should still be attached to the exif data.

    We really did want to shoot outside. We actually started that morning at the beach, but we got out a little late (8 a.m.) and it was already too bright and really hot. She started getting hot and her make up was starting to get screwed up. She didn't redo it for these shots, so I had to touch it up a bit in post. I think the next shoot will be outside at the beach around 7 p.m. I think we will grab a helper to help to use a reflector/diffusor.

    Oh, and Steve, number 2 was my favorite too. It was actually the first one I picked from the group and the first one I post processed (ever, outside of the stuff I do for my car and wildlife pics).

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    Re: First Attempts at Portraiture

    Quote Originally Posted by spngr311 View Post
    Posing people is really hard, there definitely is an art to it
    Yep

    After a while you get to know what works and what doesn't -- but it does vary from person to person.

    A classic I like to use is the "bad girl and nails" pose (!) - tell her she's been a bad girl and to turn around and face away from you (including feet) (so back totally towards you) - tell her you're going to nail her feet to the floor (ie "keep them there") - and then have her turn around at the waist and shoulders back towards the camera. Be sure that she turns around far enough so you can see both eyes easily.

    Have a key light to camera left, and a reflector to camera right for fill.

    If she HAS to move her feet slightly then that's OK, but you're looking for max twist of the waist and a dip of the shoulders. Tilt the camera slightly to put more lean on the shoulders too.

  9. #9
    spngr311's Avatar
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    Re: First Attempts at Portraiture

    I can't wait for the weekend to take some more pics with my model! Hopefully, I can get all the work I have to do on her X5 done Saturday so I can take all the rest of the weekend taking pics!

    Thanks for the very straight forward tips.

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