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Thread: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

  1. #1

    Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    Hello there, since last time I posted here I've been doing a lot of practice, and invested in a flash that doesn't require a plug! Then I was asked to take some portraits for one of my sister's friend, now before I go out with her again I'd like a little feedback from some less biased people than my family friends, and the girl herself so that I might get some Really good pictures the second time around.


    Attempt at portraits. C&C please


    Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    Attempt at portraits. C&C please

  2. #2

    Re: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    I suppose I should tell you that I was using an SB-600 for the lighting on these, It turned out a little harsh for my liking, but I have some smaller soft-boxes that I might be able to clamp over the head of the flash for next time. Either that or I'll buy one of the battery boxes that I found in a hardware store, and bring the real stuff.

  3. #3

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    Re: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    First of all, a lot of my photography concerns wildlife especially bugs; so don't take my comments too seriously.

    The colour appears to be slightly wrong in the first photo; and I would crop tighter, even if it means forgetting about thirds.

    With the second one; I don't like that diagonal piece of metal, or whatever it is, in the bottom right corner. I would clone it out or crop it away. I would almost be tempted to scratch a suitable bit of graffitti onto the bench. But then again, I would be caught and fined!

    And the offending article is on the left in the third image, possibly a tripod leg? Either way I would remove it.

    As you say, the lighting is possibly a bit on the harsh side; although in many ways this makes the result appear more natural and spontaneous. And you have to compete with difficult natural lighting in the background.

    So all in all, I would say your settings were about correct for the situation.
    Last edited by Geoff F; 26th April 2010 at 06:24 PM. Reason: confused between left & right

  4. #4

    Re: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    #1 The light looks quite good in this one, but I'm not too keen on the off-beat composition. May have been better with more of her in shot.

    #2 The light is a little harsh and shadowy on her face. I find here hair colour blends too much with the leafy backdrop. Not very flattering on the back of her thighs, and I would have asked her to remove the shoes as they are not very glamorous.

    #3 Is better pose, but again, you seem to have a lot of shadow areas. It looks as if it was quite a leafy (shady) area. Was it?

    Overall, I think they are quite good, and she is an attractive model as a subject. I think a more suitable location would have made them much better shots. Still, you can always try again. That's what it's all about.

    I said all that, but my people shots are c**p.

  5. #5
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    Hi there,

    Rather than concentrate on the lighting, I'm looking at the images as a whole.

    As Rob has spotted, you need to keep an eye out for the light stand/tripod legs from getting into shot; in both #2 and #3
    If your answer to some of these issues is that you intended to crop the shots, that's fair enough.

    However, the biggest issue I see, is with the backgrounds, they are all full of quite strong, distracting shapes; steps in #1, trees and branches in #2 and #3.

    #1 was shot at f7.1 and #2 and #3 at f16, these DoF enhancing apertures, together with camera to subject vs subject to background distances are a major contribution to the background problem.

    I appreciate that's a lot to take in, together with everything else and I really doubt I'd do any better myself

    Hope that helps,

  6. #6

    Re: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    As Rob has spotted, you need to keep an eye out for the light stand/tripod legs from getting into shot; in both #2 and #3


    #1 was shot at f7.1 and #2 and #3 at f16, these DoF enhancing apertures, together with camera to subject vs subject to background distances are a major contribution to the background problem.
    Well spotted, that man. I never saw the tripod leg in the last shot. And I didn't check the f-stop setting. They would have been much more effective on a larger aperture.

  7. #7
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    Hi Teufelkind,

    If you want to improve, you're right to seek unbiassed opinion, so I hope these are proving useful.

    Here's a bit of a PP makeover on #1 to separate your model from the background:
    Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    Ooh, while I think of it; one other thing to watch out for is things like her index finger being exactly aligned with the bright step edge behind, I had to do a lot of work burning and softening that step to separate it.

    Exposure, saturation and WB I didn't touch beyond a little LCE on model only, so they were fine.

    Note how I cloned out the stakes holding the steps before I cropped the image - all the time; trying to simplify the background.
    Then I dodged the step fronts to make them lighter, burned the tops to make them darker, oodles of blur on all the background.
    Sharpen brush applied to her eyes, mouth and hair.
    Slight downsize to get height to 700px.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 27th April 2010 at 12:22 AM.

  8. #8

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    Re: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    Hi, Teufelkind;

    There's a lot of good advice above, so I'll just add two things, one about poses, one about lighting.

    These are all full-face, which isn't very flattering. Your model is pretty enough to carry it through, and her hair falls on one side, which is good, since it hides the differences between the sides of the face that we all have. But how about trying a bit of oblique, like this shot, or a full oblique like this one, both by Colin. That tends to thin the face.

    As others have commented, the lighting is harsh. Being high overhead, especially in 2&3, it makes strong shadows in and under the eyes. If you need to shoot when the sun is overhead, you may want to have your model face away from the sun, and use flash to light her face. It sounds as if your flash is off-camera, so you can move it over to the "key" light position. If you can do it early or late in the day, you can use the sunlight as your key light. For examples, you can look at the two portraits Colin did, and you can see where the key light is coming from by looking at the shadow the nose makes.

    Cheers,
    Rick

  9. #9

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    Re: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    Hi ya,

    Time for some brutal honesty

    1. Well done - I think you have a natural talent for this.

    2. EVERY portrait we take is going to need some work - case in point here, you have a stunning young lady posing for you - so you want to flatter her right? Acne on the face and legs doesn't flatter anyone - and neither does bags under the eyes - so your going to have to learn retouching (which honestly isn't that hard).

    3. You need to sort your white balancing - accurate white balancing is one of the hallmarks that seperate a professional job from an amateur job.

    4. In terms of compositions, #1 was my favourite; #2 & #3 could have been OK, but probably not when your subject is wearing shorts as the legs draw the eye away from the face, which is key to any portrait.

    5. In terms of lighting, the ONLY things that matter are (a) how big is your light source and (b) how close is it to the subject. Forget "little flash addons" - in this type of situation they're all USELESS. Go buy a 1m diffuser - put that in front of your model - and then hit the diffuser with the flash. You may also need a reflector to bounce some of the light up into their eyes.

    So all in all, great start -- now we'll make you better

    Here's a quick retouch I did for you ... would look great as a canvas print

    Attempt at portraits. C&C please

  10. #10

    Re: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    Thanks for the legitimate critique!
    Colin, a 50X70 CM Soft box attachment should be about good right?
    Oh, and I did notice the tripod leg in #2, but alas for #3 I did not.
    For #2 a crop will fix it nicely I think though, and on #3 I guess I'll do a little work on cloning it out, though she's not as interested in that picture as others.

    My only real big problem was figuring out how to expose my pictures properly with a wider aperture, I know that f-stop controls the exposure of flash, and that shutter speed controls the ambient light, but I couldn't figure out how to tone down my flash! on camera it's simple but using the CLS controls I lose my mind!

  11. #11

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    Re: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    Quote Originally Posted by Teufelkind View Post
    Colin, a 50X70 CM Soft box attachment should be about good right?
    Yes - No - Maybe The size of the light source is only 1/2 of the equasion - the other 1/2 is "how close is it to the subject". Personally, I don't bother with soft boxes on low-power flash units as they just don't have the grunt to do them justice (mind you, I'm a little biased because I use softboxes on up to 4 Elinchrom RX1200 heads that could light up a football stadium). For doing what you're trying to do I shoot a couple of Canon 580EX II's into a shoot-through umbrella (1 would do it, but recycle times would be slower).

    As a "case in point", I shot all of these with such a rig (or very similar) (except the "one day my prince will come" shot)

    My only real big problem was figuring out how to expose my pictures properly with a wider aperture, I know that f-stop controls the exposure of flash, and that shutter speed controls the ambient light, but I couldn't figure out how to tone down my flash! on camera it's simple but using the CLS controls I lose my mind!
    Not quite. Aperture affects both flash and ambient. Wider apertures let more light in meaning less flash is needed - but - the total exposure is both flash AND ambient ... so as you let more light in the camera has to increase the shutterspeed to compensate - and there is a limit to how high the shutterspeed can go (called x-sync speed) when using flash; usually somewhere around 1/200th. If the scene needs a shutterspeed higher then that then it'll over-expose. Having just said all of that, there is a mode that Canon call HSS ("High Speed Sync") (sorry, I don't know the Nikon equivalent name) that allows you to go above x-sync speed (at the expense of flash power output), but with the Canon system it's something that you have to turn on, and I'm guessing that Nikon are the same. So if you're trying to shoot too wide then there's a good chance that's your problem. Also ...

    ... don't shoot too wide when you're shooting portraits - or you'll end up with sharp eyes but soft tips of noses / ears. Usually F4 is about my minimum and 5.6 more common (although having just said that it depends on what lens I'm using and how close I am with it).

  12. #12
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    Re: Attempt at portraits. C&C please

    I like the middle one but I'm not used to PSE, usually I use Gimp for this sort of stuff so I had a go with PSE since Colin says it is not too hard. In the middle image I think a shallow dof more appropriate with the subject more vertically aligned preferably without slippers. I don't get the chance to take photo's like this and I hope you don't mind my illustration.
    Attempt at portraits. C&C please

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