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Thread: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

  1. #1
    Hazeb1's Avatar
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    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Aloha,

    These are my first serious attempts at studio portraiture. Constructive crticism and advice appreciated. I was attempting to use mid-key lighting with a single speedlight bouncing off an umbrella (silver) and a white reflector opposite the light source.

    All were shot using a Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR at f6.3 @ 1/80 sec. Only LR 3.5 (and a skin softening preset) was used for PP. (I realize I will likely need more sophisticated PP tools in the future) Right now, I'm most concerned with the lighting.

    Thanks for your input.


    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Hi Warren - I don't have much time right now to write a whole lot, but the very first thing that struck me is pretty significant, from what I know about portraiture, and that is there's no catch light in the eyes. They look totally dead. So, one of two things happened 1) you removed the catch light in PP, which is a big 'no-no', or 2) your lighting set up is not adequate.

    If I had to wager money, I'd say it was #1, because I can see the highlights from your Speedlite on her cheek. But I'm not a betting man!

    Also, since I don't have time to check the EXIF, could I suggest you either use a bit wider aperture, or have your model stand a little farther from your backdrop? The wrinkles in the pink cloth are pretty noticeable, and distracting.

    But, for a first attempt, I think you're on the right track. Good use of the reflector to bounce some light back onto the far side.

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    Hazeb1's Avatar
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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Thanks Andrew,

    You are right, I did remove the catch light. I'm not sure what why I thought it was a good idea... Now I'm sure it is not.

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Hi Warren!

    Might I further suggest that perhaps a little cropping would be beneficial?

    With #1 some off the sides? Seems like a lot of background there that isnít the subject.

    With the next two I would suggest cropping out some of the headroom. Getting the eyes closer to the upper third and further away from the center of the image?

    Without knowing your set-up, I would suggest possibly moving your reflector in closer to the subject. Seems like some pretty hard shadow lines down her left (camera right) side of her nose and eye. More so in #1. These could also be lifted some in post if one had the desire.

    Interesting to note how your lighting set-up affects the shape of your subjectís face. In the third shot with your subjectís face turned more toward the key, her face looks rounder and more full than the first two where she appears to be turned slightly away from the key (broad vs. short).

    Looks like youíre on your way, Warren! Wish my first (or for that matter any) attempts were this good!

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Warren...

    As mentioned, the first two images have a significant shadow to the left side (right side of the image) of her nose and face. This could be mitigated by using a softer (larger) light source such as a bigger umbrella or a softbox. The effect of a large light source is made softer by placing the light closer to the subject. I know that this seems counter-intuitive but that is the way light works. Additionally, white umbrellas will provide softer and less specular light.

    The shadows could be softened by using some fill light (either another light of a reflector) opposite to where your key light is.

    The problem with the strobist system of using a hotshoe flash is that, even if you use the stroboscopic burst, you cannot effectively see what your light is doing. A studio flash, even the cheap Chinese, eBay lights have a modeling light which will provide WYSIWYG lighting.

    Often a flat lighting is more flattering to a female, especially paramount or butterfly lighting in which a large light source is directed from above the camera. This is often done with a large parabolic reflector but can be effectively done with an umbrella, resulting in the "butterfly" shaped shadow beneath the nose from which the lighting gets the "butterfly" name. The "Paramount" name comes from the fact that the Paramount movie studio used this type of lightng for glamour images of their actresses. A second light source or fill, is directed from camera left. Another way to provide some fill in this type of lighting is to use a reflector from beneath the subject's face. Often, photographers have their subject hold the reflector.

    Another way to use a single flash is to mount it on a Stroboframe Camera Flip Bracket. They are often available at very low prices from eBay...

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/STROBOFRAME-...item337e878649

    Bounce the flash off the ceiling (I trigger mine with a Canon off-camera sync cord) and modify the light with a Joe Demb Flash Diffuser Pro...

    www.dembflashproducts.com

    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    You have no catchlights in the subjects large and lovely eyes. The lack of catchlights make the eyes look "dead". Catchlights are the reflections of lights from near the camera and as one old-time photographer once mentioned, "are the windows into the soul of your subject".

    Sometimes, when all else fails you can fake a catchlight by using the clone stamp and inserting a small stamp from a white area of the portrait. You need to play around with the size and location of the "phoney catchlight" so it looks natural. I do this quite often in dog portraits but, until now have never done it for a human portrait.

    This may or may not look acceptable to you...

    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    A genetal tennet of portrait photography is that the side of the hand looks more flattering than the flat of the hand. I try not to include a hand flat to the camera.

    Another tip is to use a long focal length lens and to position your subject far enough away from the background that the BG is thrown totally out of focus thereby minimizing any wrinkles or other attention grabbing items...

    Finally, IMO, the armpit is something I try to avoid in shooting an image. Even when it is cleanly shaven, it is not, IMO, particularly flattering to any female subject.

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    Hazeb1's Avatar
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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Thanks folks. This is some really helpful feedback!!

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Hi Warren,

    We've got a few issues going on here ... I don't want to overload you, so I'll just mention the 3 biggest ...

    1. The images are severely under-exposed. I had a play with one and needed to increase the exposure 1 1/3 stops.

    2. It's fine to position a subject like that for the capture, but you need to crop the image in post-processing to avoid a "passport photo" look. As a rule, space above a head contributes nothing - and often hair to one side can be cropped as well; portraits are all about the face.

    3. If you apply a GND filter or vignette, it gives the illusion of targeted lighting - which draws the eye to the face, without having to "go search for it".

    So - with that in mind ...

    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post

    2. It's fine to position a subject like that for the capture, but you need to crop the image in post-processing to avoid a "passport photo" look. As a rule, space above a head contributes nothing - and often hair to one side can be cropped as well; portraits are all about the face.
    My apologies to the OP if I step out of the discussion for a bit, I'm also learning about portrait photography and I would like to ask, Colin how is the #2 image like a "passport photo?" or what exactly makes a photo, a passport photo? (sorry hope my question makes some sense, English isn't my first language. )

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deucalion View Post
    My apologies to the OP if I step out of the discussion for a bit, I'm also learning about portrait photography and I would like to ask, Colin how is the #2 image like a "passport photo?" or what exactly makes a photo, a passport photo? (sorry hope my question makes some sense, English isn't my first language. )
    I used the term loosely - but I'm just referring to how the subject is stuck in the middle of the frame with equal amounts of "dead space" either side.

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    All,

    Thanks so much for all the advice.

    Based on all the input, I've made the following adjustments. Bumped the overall exposure value up +.40 in Lightroom, so I'm assuming about 1/3 of a stop, did some spot adjustments to hopefully soften the shadows, added some post crop vignetting, adjusted the cropping and restored the catch light in the eyes. Hopefully I'm now on the right track... I did some test prints and they are much improved. (to my eyes anyway)

    Any additional input is appreciated.




    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...
    Last edited by Hazeb1; 14th December 2012 at 09:14 AM. Reason: typos

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Aha! Much better!

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew76 View Post
    Aha! Much better!
    really much better, wow... I really need to learn how to post process images... those edits did transform your previously posted images.

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    I'm late to the game here but I'll add my 2 bucks here (inflation). First off, the second set is much better but....
    I would suggest that you use local skin softening instead of a pre-set. The reason for this is that the eyes which is one of the most important part of a portrait needs to remain sharp. If you apply a pre-set, then that'll soften the eyes also. In addition to that, make sure you focus on the eyes. Regardless of the softening, it looks like the mouth and nose are sharper than the eyes. So you need to make sure the eyes are tack sharp by making sure you focus on the eyes. The first one is pretty close though, so that it may be better if you didn't use a pre-set and use a local skin softening. Look at Richard's example and you'll see what I mean.
    Overall your first try is very well done.

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Hi Warren,

    Big improvement - well done

    Some more thoughts though ...

    1. Don't be afraid to get more aggressive with your crops. Ideal eye placement in the frame is far more significant than having "empty space" above the head.

    2. You still need to get more aggressive with your lighting controls ... I've added a screen shot of how I needed to set ACR to adjust your adjusted image.

    3. Don't forget the little things like removing shine - blatting hairs around the eyes - output sharpening

    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Very lovely lady by the way. Your wife?

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    Hazeb1's Avatar
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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Thanks Colin,

    Yes, she is my wife of almost 20yrs. I figure if I produce some nice portraits for her, she may not put up a fuss when I want to buy more camera stuff (It's worth a try anyway) lol

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Quote Originally Posted by Hazeb1 View Post
    Thanks Colin,

    Yes, she is my wife of almost 20yrs. I figure if I produce some nice portraits for her, she may not put up a fuss when I want to buy more camera stuff (It's worth a try anyway) lol
    Sounds like a great plan

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Aloha Warren!

    Very nice re-works.

    One thing I like to try to remind myself to watch is that when I have an arm or hand in the frame, to make sure that said arm or hand is not too overly exposed or too bright. Taking attention away from the face/eyes. If I find that that is indeed the case, a little low level burning of said appendage usually does the trick.

    I would think your Wife would be thrilled with what you have done! Maybe an extra strobeís worth?


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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Warren,
    What do you think about this image. I don't think that the retouch job is "over-the-top"...

    My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

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    Hazeb1's Avatar
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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Richard,

    It looks great to me. What software did you use? I'm considering getting Portrait Professional. I'm currently only using LR.

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    Re: My first serious attempt at studio portraits. Advice please...

    Quote Originally Posted by Hazeb1 View Post
    I'm considering getting Portrait Professional.
    AAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggg ggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Edit: I caught a timely post on Ed Verosky's blog the other day on the topic of retouching:

    http://www.edverosky.net/blog/2012/1...ng-techniques/

    Number 7 reminds me of Portrait "Professional".

    My advice (meant in the nicest possible way) is "learn to retouch properly" - programs like Portrait Professional will NEVER do a better job than hand retouching - and seldom even get particularly close.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 17th December 2012 at 03:15 AM.

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