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Thread: Noisy portrait of my wife

  1. #1
    ClaudioG's Avatar
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    Noisy portrait of my wife

    Hi all..been away a while and unfortunately have not used camera much, and trust me i need all the practise i should be getting!! DOH!! So..this is one of my first very bad and really not sharp image i took of my wife..i thought ok..lemme play around a bit and i decided to add some noise... now please bare with me as i have no experience in portraits..so PLEASE any and all C+C welcome. i also wanted to know... which of the lenses between 35mm prime lens or the 55-200mm better for portraits? i read some place that the tele end seems to be more flattering to features? Thank goodness my wife is game for a few portraits now so im looking forward to any info supplied by u all. Its been difficult trying to convince her

    Noisy portrait of my wife

    This was taken with a 35mm prime lens at bit of a distance so i cropped in a bit to

  2. #2
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy portrait of my wife

    Hi Claudio – An interesting image, but not an interpretation that I would necessarily use. Classic profile pose that you have used does work for me.

    The first thing that strikes me is that the image is significantly underexposed. There are a few highlights, but in general, the image fades right into the background. I note that you were shooting at ISO3200 at 1/30 sec at f/1.8. The most important thing that you need to do is have more light. When I download the image, and look at the histogram; the image is essentially jammed into the darkest 20%. This is going to make a noisy image (due to the high ISO setting) even noisier.

    In general, I might not mind the noisy approach, in for instance a sports type setting, especially for a male, but I don’t like the look for a female. I tend to prefer softer and more subdued tones when shooting women; it somehow seems to work better. I also find that I prefer a lighter background when I shoot women; somehow it fits a bit better in the genre; a dark background imparts a harder, more gritty look, better suited to shooting a man.

    Your lens choice is also not what I would have used; especially for the close-up view that you are using. A 35mm lens on a crop frame sensor is something I would use for a group shot, not a closeup that is mainly just beyond a head shot. If you were shooting in something other than profile, you would notice more if her ear were showing if it were not covered by hair. If you were not in profile, the nose and chin would likely look a bit strange. I personally would use a focal length in the 85mm to 135mm range on your camera; the look will be more flattering.

    From a focus standpoint, you are in a tough situation. Even with a 35mm lens, shooting at f/1.8 give you very little margin for error. The general rule is that if you are going to be soft, make sure that the eye closest to the camera is in sharp focus. Rather than using matrix metering; go into spot metering mode and focus on the eye; press your shutter down half way and then recompose. That will ensure that the eye is in sharp focus. Adding more light would also let you shoot at a more forgiving aperture of f/8 to f/11.

    So to sum up, I would suggest you look at the following:

    1. Add light; using off camera flash. More light will solve a lot of other issues;

    2. Shoot against a lighter background; and

    3. Use a longer lens
    Last edited by GrumpyDiver; 22nd May 2013 at 04:27 PM.

  3. #3
    ClaudioG's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy portrait of my wife

    Thanks for the advice Manfred . When u say 85 to the135. If I'm using a 55- 200mm on my d5100. Should i stay between 58mm and 90mm seeing as it's the nikon ? With it been a crop frame sensor i mean?
    Last edited by ClaudioG; 22nd May 2013 at 07:41 PM.

  4. #4
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy portrait of my wife

    Claudio - I have the 55 - 200mm as well and I shoot it on my D90, so the focal length range is the one I tend to shoot with on it, so no need to conversion of the focal lengths is required. I tend to shoot from a bit further away than some photographers.

    I shoot a lot more on the full frame D800 now that I have one, and I shoot most of my portraits with either the f/2.8 70-200mm or my f/2 105mm DC lens.

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy portrait of my wife

    Your wife is a classically lovely woman. However, I agree with Manfred that the extra grain doesn't do her justice. Also, as Manfred mentions, the 35mm lens is generally too short - whether on a crop or a full-frame camera, for portrait work like this.

    I generally use my 70-200mm f/4L IS lens for head and shouders portraits and will generally shoot anywhere between 100-150mm (on a crop camera). However, just about anywhere from 70-200mm will give pleasing results with the crop format. If I were shooting full frame, I expect that I would be using 150-200mm quite often...

    IMO the longer focal lengths are flattering for females...

    If I don't have a chance to set up my studio portrait lghts, I will bounce a single flash off the ceiling modified with a Joe Demb Flash Diffuser Pro.

    www.dembflashproducts.com

    Joe has a selection of my single flash portraits which you can link to from his site. The link is to the right of the home page and says: "Smugmug Examples by Escondido Photographer Richard Crowe - See how Richard Crowe uses his DFD Pro for model photography"

    I will most often shoot my portraits using ISO 160...

    One of my instructors in Navy Photography school which I attended over 50-years ago said, "I always shoot available light!" He then raised his flash unit and said, "And, this light is always available!"
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 22nd May 2013 at 09:01 PM.

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    ClaudioG's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy portrait of my wife

    Thank you both Richard and Manfrd for the great advice. To be honest I was going for sort of film noir kinda look and probably went way off the mark. . I'm going to be sincere and ask a question.. I'm on a bit of a tight budget...and I actually quite njoy portraiture..but I only have my new D5100 and my 3 kit lenses..one been the 55-200. What would you recommend be my next step? As in what lighting equipment would you suggest I could start off with just to get more of an idea of how to work with lighting? I'm guessing an off camera flash is not enough?
    Could you maybe recommend anything as a starting point?

    Again thank you both for the great advice.

  7. #7

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    Re: Noisy portrait of my wife

    Hi Claudio,

    Your wife sure has a beautiful profile and you should pay lots of attention to using it to the best of your ability. She will make very good portraits when shot under the right light and from the right angle. Just remember to keep the light soft and the image without harsh shadows.
    Always focus on the eye closest to the camera.

    Good luck. Hope to see you posting some really good shots of her.

    Edit: Sorry missed your question.

    I would use the 55-200 lens. You need not use flash. Shoot in shade using complimentary backgrounds. Be careful to keep verticals vertical and horizontals horizontal. Never have any horizontal object going trough the face. Be careful not to have verticals coming out of her head.
    On an overcast day you will get great portraits in a garden. Stay out of her face when shooting - do not attempt "close ups", rather zoom in to get the close up. Get her to be natural when shooting.
    You love her and you should get great shots.
    Last edited by AB26; 23rd May 2013 at 09:38 AM.

  8. #8
    ClaudioG's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy portrait of my wife

    Hi Andre..thank you for the advice... Will definitely put all my effort into it... As u say.. I'm blessed with an amazing women as a wife and model.. .. So I hope I can put everyones advice into my images.

  9. #9
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy portrait of my wife

    Very nice image. I think it would work best if the format were smaller as the details so close can be distracting.

  10. #10
    ClaudioG's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy portrait of my wife

    Thanks John..I'll play around with the format tonight and see what comes about. Thank you

  11. #11
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy portrait of my wife

    Claudio, I totally agree with Andre. Your 55-250mm lens would be just fine. I shoot many of my portraits at f/8 because I am not a fan of razor thin DOF.

    If you shoot with a single flash, bouncing the flash from a bracket ike the Stroboframe Camera Flip works quite well. I got mine quite inexpensively, used on eBay.

    Noisy portrait of my wife

    You may or may not need an off-camera cord, depending on the remote flash capabilities of your camera.

    Modify the light with a Joe Demb Flash Diffuser Pro or a diffuser/reflector you have fabricated from cardboard or foamboard.

    http://super.nova.org/DPR/DIY01/

    Ensure that you have a non-distracting background and that you have placed your wife a sufficient distance from the background.

    It is going to be pretty hard to shoot a bad image of your lovely wife. Colin's portrait tutorial above will help you elevate the quality of images and you can always find more information by doing a google search.

    Here's one resul of a Google search using "portrait posing guide" as my search parameters.
    http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/20...-posing-guide/
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 23rd May 2013 at 03:55 PM.

  12. #12
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Noisy portrait of my wife

    For portraiture, you do want flattering light; certainly not the harsh African mid-day sun. Golden hour (the short period just after sunrise or just before sunset), coming in through a window can give you some really soft and sublime lighting. I haven't mastered it yet. You might also want to shoot near a south-facing window, where you get fairly diffuse light. I suggest you might want to get a basic portraiture book or do a search on the internet, there are lots of YouTube videos that cover portraiture.

    Generally, light from angles at least 45 degrees from vertical can be quite interesting, but overhead lighting generally does not result in flattering images. You may want to experiment with a reflector (I will often just use a piece of white foam core) that the model holds to reflect a bit of light back under the chin or into the eyes to soften shadows.

    This brings me to artificial light; which is much more controllable (there is a reason pros use studio lighting). The built in flash in your camera is useless for portraiture (well not quite, but I'll get to that later). The problem with the pop-up flash is that it is very close to the lens axis and can result in "red eye' and frontal lighting is not particularly flattering.

    Another source of lighting that tends not to work particularly well is continuous lighting. To be able to shoot at reasonable shutter speeds at an appropriate aperture setting and low ISO, you need a lot of light. Enough to cause your model to squint, the pupils to close right down, etc. Nicely said, these tend to not give good results. A lot of people try to go this way because of costs, but most photographers are likely to agree with me that it is not an ideal way to shoot portraits.

    This then means going to Speedlights or studio strobes. The costs can be around the same, but most people would probably use Speedlights because they are a lot more portable or flexible. They are not cheap either. The one problem with a Speedlight is that they are a small light source, and that means that they will cast harsh shadows, which is not good for portraiture. The easiest solution is to camera mount the Speedlight (or use a Stroboframe like Richard shows) and turn the head to around 45 degrees and bounce the light off a neutral coloured wall nearby).

    The next level of complexity is to go to an off-camera flash with a light modifier. My first setup was a white convertible photo umbrella, a cheap light stand and a bracket to mount my flash on (this cost me $100 Cdn or so a about 4 years ago). A Nikon CLS flash is an integrated solution that communicates with your camera. The real use of the popup flash is to fire your off-camera flash via something called Commander Mode. Look that up in your camera manual. This is your main light or key light. Stick a piece of white foam core (perhaps 60cm x 90cm) or a chair or get your model to hold it just out of camera view and you have a fill light that reflects some of the light from your flash back at the model and softens any shadows; a simple two light setup. You’ll even get some nice catchlights that add sparkle to your model’s eyes


    These are some of my earliest portraits done with the setup I just described. They were taken with the Nikkor 55-200mm


    Noisy portrait of my wife



    Noisy portrait of my wife
    Last edited by GrumpyDiver; 25th May 2013 at 02:13 AM.

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