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Thread: Another portrait session

  1. #1
    DH59's Avatar
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    Another portrait session

    Well, the network group members are certainly keen on my offer of a free portrait session. I had another one earlier this week, and there are a couple more to book.

    For this one we went to a local park where we found some autumn leaves to add a bit of colour. The light was the complete opposite of the bright sunlight I had on my first session. It was cold, damp, misty and dull. Again, I probably should have boosted the light with a reflector, but I feel they are better than the first batch I posted.

    I've added some presets in Lightroom and an action in Elements 9 to boost the colours.

    C&C welcome.

    Another portrait session

    Another portrait session

    Another portrait session

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    Re: Another portrait session

    Diane, I don't know if it is my monitor but the images don't look sharp to me...

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    DH59's Avatar
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    Re: Another portrait session

    I don't know Richard. I have posted them on another forum and no mention has been made about sharpness. Perhaps it's how they've been compressed here, but I certainly don't see any softness, other than in the intended depth of field. I've blown the images up to 100% in Lightroom to check for the eyes being sharp and thought I had it.

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    Re: Another portrait session

    Hi Diane,

    I'm in a "point by point" frame of mind right now, so here goes ...

    1. Definately a sharpness issue, as others have mentioned. Perhaps you could describe your sharpening workflow to us? As a starting point, I'd suggest (assuming a RAW file), Capture sharpening of 0.3 pixel @ 300% (on the full resolution image), content/creative sharpening of 4 pixels @ 40% (also on the full resolution image), and (for online display), down-sample (using bicubic) so that the longest dimension is in the region of 1000 to 1200 pixels (to help us guage the quality of the shot), followed by output sharpening of 0.3pixels @ 100%. If it's still soft after that then we'll need to look at focusing and/or camera shake/subject motion possibilities.

    2. I think the setting and composition of image #1 is excellent; photographing children in nice surroundings like that always makes things a lot easier. In terms of the day being cold / damp / misty / dull etc, that's not a bad thing at all (it's actually quite a good thing) (much better than bright sunlight); being a "dull day" doesn't make for an under-exposed ("dull") photo, as the camera can't tell the difference -- so we're not concerned at all about the QUANTITY of light (there's more than enough) -- we're only concerned about the QUALITY of light. In this case it doesn't appear to be directional, but it is soft, so it still gets 8 out of 10 in my book. A reflector might help a little, but you'd probably struggle to reflect much into their faces anyway, as the light source would have been so diffuse. A flash is probably the only thing that would have helped much. In terms of processing, it looks to me like the skintones are a bit washed out, but it could just be my monitor (I think the kids might have been playing), but I suspect they'd look better with a few taps of the burn tool set to midtones.

    3. With regards to Image 2, sorry, but if just doesn't "fly" for me; the eyes look un-naturally bright, saturated, sharp, and big, whereas the mouth looks very soft. And the composition has (in my opinion) the eyes too low, and the chin overly cropped (as a rule, cutting tops of heads off is "the norm", but chins less so (it can be done, but you have to look at where the eyes are going to end up in the frame).

    4. With regards to image 3, that kind of crop is too tight for an outdoors portrait - it doesn't give any space for the subject to look into, and nor does it show any of the environment (never under-estimate the power of a childs interaction with their environment in a photo); it's a lovely environment, so why cut it off? I used to do a lot of portrait-oriented shots like that, but I've started doing them more as a horizontal format, and I think the results are a lot better, eg ...

    Another portrait session

    Hope this helps, and apologies if it's a bit "direct"


    PS: These are really waaay to small for us to be able to evaluate properly -- would be great if you could get the images at least twice as high, and twice as wide; safe at a quality setting of around 10 or 11 so you end up with a file size for each one of around 500kb.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 12th November 2011 at 08:49 AM.

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    Re: Another portrait session

    PPS: Diane, if it helps, fire me off a copy of the RAW file for #1, and I'll give it a full retouch for you to show you how I'd present it. That one would be a good candidate for a good-sized print/canvas for the parents.

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    Re: Another portrait session

    Wow, thank you Colin for that excellent explanation on sharpening. I've had a look at the appropriate tutorial so that I can get a better understanding of what you meant.

    1) My sharpening workflow: Yes, it is a RAW file, so no in-camera sharpening applied at all. Presumably capture sharpening, in this case, would refer to any sharpening applied in the RAW converter, which in my case is Lightroom. Perhaps here I should have added more. The sharpening figures used on image 1 were: Amount 66, Radius 1.0, Detail 25, Masking 0.

    I have Elements 9, but rarely use it, so no further creative sharpening has been applied. The only other sharpening done on these images is in the LR export, where I selected sharpen for screen at the standard setting (not sure what that is exactly, but there's low, standard and high).

    For focusing I tried to get an outer focal point onto the eye, and aperture was at f/4 on my 24-105 lens. This has IS and that was switched on, and ISO 400. Shutter speeds were: Image 1 = 1/100; image 2 = 1/125; image 3 = 1/160. Some other images were quite a bit lower - in the region of 1/50 - and did show some motion blur.

    2) I realised that the weather conditions on day these were taken were better than the full sun of the previous session, and there was no direction of light, as you rightly point out. I had thought about flash, but wanted to keep it simple and get my technique right before complicating things too much.

    The faces are probably washed out due to the preset and action used to lift the colours. I've seen quite a few images where the skin tones are not very natural looking, but it seems to be a 'trend'. Not sure if I like it either. The original is quite normal looking.

    3) This was not one of my favourites either, due to the chin cut-off, but it is one that the parents have opted to buy as one of four extra images to the free image I have included from the session. In fact all four of the chosen images are not ones that I would have picked as the best, but they did say they liked them all and couldn't decide which to have (although it was only four plain 7x5 prints - nothing too expensive). Baffled me!

    Thank you for offering to have a go with the image. How do I send you the RAW file?

    A couple more, at a larger size, hopefully.

    This was another that the parents ordered as an extra. I know the nearest eye should be in focus!
    Another portrait session

    This was one that I quite liked, but would welcome feedback.
    Another portrait session

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    Re: Another portrait session

    Diane

    So far as making a RAW file available is concerned, what you need to do is load it up to a file sharing service. I use Mediafire. You:
    1. create a (free) account
    2. upload your file(s)
    3. capture the URL fro the file you've uploaded (it's easy to follow the instructions to get it)
    4. post that URL into a PM to Colin

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    Re: Another portrait session

    Thanks, Donald. I will get that sorted.

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    Re: Another portrait session

    Hi Diane,

    You're very welcome, and I'll take a look at the file shortly.

    - Personally, I don't apply capture sharpening during the RAW conversion phase because Canon specifically recommend 0.3 @ 300%, and the RAW converter only goes down to 0.5% - so it's one of the very few exceptions to the "anything you CAN do in ACR you SHOULD do in ACR" rule. If you don't have PS then you'll probably be better off applying the various sharpening passes in PSE rather than LR (in fact I'd suggest - if you want to use LR then just use it to knock the majority of images into shape so that the customer can make initial selects -- when it come to retouching a final select I personally don't think LR is the right tool for the job.

    - In terms of using presets, I'd strongly suggest not using them (or at least until you know what they're doing); in this respect I think they're worse than in-camera JPEGs in that you're losing control of your images. For quality portraiture - IMHO - nothing beats hand retouching of an image (well that's what I do anyway, supplimented by a few actions that I've hand-written) (nothing fancy though).

    - In terms of apertures, F4 is a good working one, but only when you're further back ... for closeup shots with a long lens it'll give you problems if the eyes aren't on the same plane, so you really need to stop down to F8 or so (and probably up the ISO to 800 or even higher).

    - With regards to the last photo, I think it's fine, although again, I'd encourage you to "think horizontal" to give the chap some space to look into. I'd also clone out the orange string he's playing with. Definately a keeper though.

    Hope this helps

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    Re: Another portrait session

    Hi Diane,

    Here you go. There's an infinite way of processing shots like this, so I hope you like my interpretation.

    Basically ...

    - Standard ACR (WB / Exposure / Brightness / Blacks / Vibrance etc)
    - Capture sharpening
    - Content / Creative Sharpening
    - Remove spots (clothing / Face)
    - Crop
    - Sharpen eyes
    - Whiten teeth
    - Blur leaves
    - Saturate leaves / clothing

    (Be sure to click on image for MUCH bigger version)

    Another portrait session

    PS: This is what I call a "canvas Edit" (since I print mostly on canvas) - what that means in English is for a framed print, I'd crop is slightly closer (I'm laving room for the image to wrap around the side of the frame here), and I tend to make the saturation a little higher than it is in reality sorta/kinda like parents would like to remember it, rather than how it actually was.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 13th November 2011 at 12:34 AM.

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    Re: Another portrait session

    Great edit as usual colin, how much do you charge for ps lessons!

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    Re: Another portrait session

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark von Kanel View Post
    Great edit as usual colin, how much do you charge for ps lessons!
    Free, for all CiC Members

    PS: Diane, I'd class the above image as "pro approved" - would look fantastic as a 22 x 15" canvas print hanging on their wall. I've kept the full resolution Photoshop file if you'd like me to send it back to you.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 13th November 2011 at 12:37 AM.

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    Re: Another portrait session

    Colin, thanks for doing the edit, it looks great. And yes, I would be very grateful if you sent me the PS file.

    I'm not sure that the parents will be buying much more than the four prints they have decided on already. They didn't even want them mounting - they're going to be shoved into some cheap ready-made frames. Mind you, they have been to a Venture studio in the past and have three medium-sized square black and white framed prints on their wall, so not sure how much they paid for that little lot.

    In the meantime I've read through the tutorial on CiC again, and watched a few YouTube videos on LR sharpening and I think I may be getting it, or getting more confused, one of the two!

    To go back to your editing process, I have a couple of questions:
    1) If I do it all in PSE, do I still do the capture sharpening in ACR or just open up the image following WB/Exposure, etc?

    2) How did you perform the creative sharpening step, and to which areas? Did you create a mask for certain areas?

    3) Regarding the separate eye sharpening, is this not a part of the creative sharpening step? If it's separate, how do you do this?

    Thanks again, Colin.

    Diane

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    Quote Originally Posted by DH59 View Post

    To go back to your editing process, I have a couple of questions:

    1) If I do it all in PSE, do I still do the capture sharpening in ACR or just open up the image following WB/Exposure, etc?

    2) How did you perform the creative sharpening step, and to which areas? Did you create a mask for certain areas?

    3) Regarding the separate eye sharpening, is this not a part of the creative sharpening step? If it's separate, how do you do this?

    Thanks again, Colin.

    Diane
    Hi Diane,

    I'll send the file back to you when I'm next on my PC.

    To answer your questions ...

    1. I'd do capture sharpening in PSE ... I don't think ACR will have a low enough radius. Also, because you used ISO 400, I knocked the capture sharpening back a bit to stop it making the skin tones too waxy.

    2. I just applied it to the whole image. I DID however apply a Gaussian blur (21 pixel @ approx 25% opacity to everything apart from the children to soften the leaves, which would counter the sharpening of the leaves to a degree.

    3. It gets caught in the global sharpening. But I give eyes separate additional sharpening anyway. Traditional teaching is to create a separate selection for this, but a "Pro Trick" of mine is to just tap each iris with the sharpening tool about 3 times. Not a major in this case though because it's full body shots, and the irises are very small anyway.

    Got to run ... Formula 1 starting on TV

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    Re: Another portrait session

    OK, thanks again Colin.

    I'll keep practising this on a few more images to see what I can come up with.

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