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Thread: Portrait trials

  1. #1

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    Portrait trials

    Good afternoon,

    Lately I have tried shoting a number of portraits. Your input would be much appreciated. Could you please tell me what you think I have made wrong and what you would correct and how? I want to develop and I have to know where my weak points are. My portrait trials and a few comments are below. Thank you in advance.

    Two light sources: one tungsten bulb, one impulse camera mounted Canon 430 EX II flash
    Lens: Canon EF 50mm F/1.4 Prime, wide open (something about F/2.0-F/3.5)

    1. Ambient light (tungsten bulb), fill flash

    Portrait trials

    2. Ambient light (tungsten bulb), flash is off

    Portrait trials

    3. Bokeh portrait, straight flash

    Portrait trials

    Regards,
    Pavel

  2. #2

    Re: Portrait trials

    Pavel,

    these pictures are good but I can see the most common newbie's errors:
    at the first photo hairs are a bit overexposed, skin looks moony - maybe you used a simple Photoshop filter for easy masking skin defects. That is not a good way.
    2nd photo - I like it, because it was taken with natural lighting. It will become more beatuful if you use an additional lighting to improve face exposing.
    3nd photo - photo was taken for "bokeh demo only". From my point of view, it have no photografical value.


    Sorry for my bad English,
    dedmojo

  3. #3

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    Re: Portrait trials

    Dedmojo,

    Thank you for the input. A have intentionally overexposed hair at the first photo. Actually, I wanted to play with light and see how these traces would be captured by DSLR camera. Nothing more than trial and error method. I cannot estimate how artistic it is but at least the photo does not seem irritative. How would you expose first photo? What do I have to change in photo N3 to add value? Light scheme? Composition? Colours?

    Regards,
    Pavel

  4. #4
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait trials

    1: It seems like your backlight is stronger than your key (main) light. That's probably what's creating the excessively-shiny zone in your model's hair, which draws one's eye away from her face. She's lovely, but since her eyes are half-closed, it looks like your timing was a little off. Once you have a setup you like, it's a good idea to bang out a bunch of shots to make sure you have a bunch of options. Tiny changes in expression can drastically change a photo's feel. Exposure looks high, and I agree that her skin looks excessively processed with a little too much pink tint.

    2: Strongest shot of the bunch. You could probably dodge (selectively lighten) her face to improve this one. It doesn't look over-processed, but you might want to try cropping to remove the dead space between her hair and the right edge of the frame. Since her hair touches the left edge, it looks a little unbalanced to me. Focus looks perfect.

    3: Taken with shoe flash? It's hard to make that work for anything but a little bit of fill. To my eye, this would have looked better with the flash power dialed down a bit - the idea is to take the edge off any shadows in her face, not to make flash the only visible light source on your subject.

    Hope that wasn't too harsh. Portraiture is hard, but you're off to a good start.

  5. #5

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    Re: Portrait trials

    RustBeltRaw,

    Thank you for the input. I will shoot again keeping in mind your corrections and will post new trials to the thread when they are ready. I would appreciate if you commented again. It seems like I will need a radio synch for Canon 550D and Speedlite 430EXII. Could you recommend one?

    Regards,
    Pavel

  6. #6
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait trials

    Flash radios can be pricey. I'd recommend starting with a simple TTL cord. Not as convenient or as flexible, but massively less expensive. I use a 1m Vello TTL cord, which is a nice length for holding your camera with one hand and the flash with the other. A 2m version is also available, good for setting your flash on a tripod next to the camera.

    You may also want to look into a portable diffuser like the large ExpoImaging Flashbender, or bounce your light off a wall, the floor, the ceiling... Anything convenient to help soften the light. Generally speaking, hard shadows should be avoided when photographing women.

  7. #7
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait trials

    A few thoughts for you:

    1. If you are shooting tungsten and flash, you are in a mixed light situation which makes it impossible to get a proper colour balance. If you insist on shooting with a tungsten light source, you should look at adding an orange gel to your flash to correct the colour temperature to that of the tungsten and then colour balance that. I personally would avoid this lighting setup.

    2. You should understand basic lighting concepts including lighting ratios; there should only be one main light (commonly referred to as a key light) and then add one of more light modifiers to fill / accent what your main light does. Portrait lighting is all about the direction of light and how the shadows are cast across the face.

    A good place to start would be with the 45° position. Put the light high and pointing down at your subject at 45° from the front of your subject and at a 45° angle down. I would do this with the flash; if you have a bit of money, get yourself a low cost light stand, mounting bracket and photo umbrella for your light. Shoot your model from the opposite side of where the light is falling (this is technically known as “short light”).

    3. Your tungsten source is much too hot and close to your subject. You are blowing out her hair. This is happening in your first and second image. The problem can be solved by moving the light further back.

    4. Your second shot needs fill light; the face is not properly lit. You don’t actually need a light; using a piece of white cardboard or foam core will work just fine. You will need either an assistant or some way of holding the reflector.

    5. I find a 50mm lens is too short for head shots. You tend to get distortion that is not particularly complimentary to your subject. Try shooting with something a bit longer; I tend to like somewhere between a 105mm and 135mm full-frame equivalent.

    6. Your third image appears to be using a camera mounted flash; which is probably the least flattering light you can use. If you plan to use flash for portraiture, going off camera is the only way to go. Just about the only time I use on camera flash portraits is as a fill light. You probably don’t need to go to a radio synch; while I don’t know your camera and flash, I suspect you can use the pop-up flash to trigger the flash using it as an optical slave.

    7. You don’t need to go to a complicated lighting setup when you are just getting started. Learn how to use a single light, possibly supplemented by a reflector before introducing a second or third light.

    8. Getting a bit of catch lights in the eyes is something to aim for in portraiture. You have this in your third image; the reflection of your light source. It gives your subject’s eyes more life.

    9. While this is more personal taste, I tend to shoot closer to eye level, a bit above or a bit below. I find that you are shooting down a bit too much in your first shot; the second shot is more to my taste from a composition standpoint.


    This is a single light setup (sort of; I used the on-camera flash to trigger the off camera flash and you can see a bit of on-camera light as a catchlight, but it does not add to the overall lighting of the face). This more or less uses the 45° position I mentioned previously; I was using a white reflected umbrella (which you can make out in the catchlights). This is short lighting as the camera-left side of the model’s face is in shadow, i.e. short light. Short light will make the face look narrower. I shot this at around the 105mm full-frame equivalent focal length.

    Portrait trials

  8. #8
    Sponge's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait trials

    Hi Pavel, here's an instructional video with photographer Jerry Ghionis that I think will give you a lot of good ideas on how to use light (all kinds of light sources including flash) with a lot of examples. It's a bit long (almost 2 hours) but very good in my opinion. Hope it helps

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2nNxaBA6ss

  9. #9

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    Re: Portrait trials

    If you have to use a single flash on camera for portrait work ...

    1. If possible, turn the flash head towards the ceiling or the wall behind you (this is the only way to take a little bit acceptable portraits with a single on camera flash).
    2. Adjust your camera exposure for ambient light,
    2. In order to provide some place for flash light, adjust the exposure compensation and as a general practice dim it 2-3 stops,
    3. Use your flash with the e-ttl ... flash will give necessary light for proper exposure (you may also use manual mode, of course)
    4. Because of reflecting light from the ceiling or wall, flash can not measure and supply enough exposure sometimes ... in this case you may increase flash exposure compensation as required ... check your histogram for correct exposure,
    5. Change the camera exposure compensation for trying different ambient-flash ratios.

  10. #10
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait trials

    Hi Pavel!

    All good advice given. Typical for this Forum! Get it right as much as you can at the shoot.

    May I add that some good editing software will also be something you might want to have available?

    May I also offer this retouch to you?

    And Pavel, if I have taken too much liberty with your photograph I will be happy to pull it off the Forum.

    But better to take the advice above than depend on an editing suite.

    Portrait trials

    Pavel, the best advice I can think of to offer you is just "go for it"! Portraiture is a fun and very rewarding pursuit! After all, what is better than a photograph you have made that makes someone look their best? It is well worth the effort!
    Last edited by Loose Canon; 27th February 2013 at 10:03 PM.

  11. #11

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    Re: Portrait trials

    Loose Canon,

    Please leave the edited photo in the thread. Quite good crop.

    Having read all advises above, I can only say "WOW!". I do really appreciate your valuable inputs. I think the easiest way would be to shoot in pretty well equipped studio. They have more then four easily adjustable powerfull light sources, they have both impulse and ambient light, adjustable backgrounds, etc., etc... Moreover, it is not pricey, something about $10/an hour. Hopefully, my next shots will be better.

    Regards,
    Pavel

  12. #12
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Another thought...

    Often when filling the frame with a full-face portrait from up close, using a 50mm lens (even on a crop camera) the length of the subject's nose appears exaggerated...

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