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Thread: Critique please

  1. #1
    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Critique please

    Critique please

    So yesterday I was doing my reading for History 202 and, inevitably, I got bored and noticed that the light coming through my window was pretty good. So I grabbed my extra blanket and rigged it up in my closet, then set up my camera on my tripod and plugged in my cable shutter release thingy so I could take pictures of myself without the timer. I played around a bit and this is what I came up with.

    I realized later that it would have been nice to have someone holding some sort of reflector to fill in the shadow on my face, but no one else was home at the time, so oh well.

    I'd love to get some feedback on how I did. Especially on the lighting, posing, and background. What works and what doesn't? Keep in mind that I'm just barely getting into portrait photography and that this wasn't any sort of respectable production; it was just killing some time.

    Feedback would be excellent!

    (oh yeah, I don't expect anyone to want to steal this image; I'm just playing around with some cool watermarks/logos that a friend recently made for me.)

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Critique please

    Quote Originally Posted by neverhood311 View Post
    Keep in mind that I'm just barely getting into portrait photography
    Hey, you and me both, Justin.

    It looks as if may be just a little bit off focus? How did you set the focus? I ask, Because I've been playing at self-portraits the last couple, of days and that's been one of the hardest bits. All sorts of objects have substituted for me as I try and get focus spot-on.

    The side of your face that is lit is, I think, quite blown. I wonder what it would have looked like if you'd exposed more for that side of your face and let the shadow side go much darker?

    But it's great fun trying this out, isn't it. I've been firing off hundreds of frames of myself. Don't know if you've seen the effort and subsequent discussion here.

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    Re: Critique please

    The watermark is cool Justin
    Nice light coming through the window. Good framing See what you mean about the dark side of the face. I'd probably like to either see it darker (almost black) or have it lit.

    Since you asked for feedback, you could reverse the way you are facing (i.e. your body almost facing the window and your head turned toward the camera a little and the eyes looking into the lens). This way the light would be mainly on the short side of the face but still able to illuminate the left side and the left eye. The more you face the light the more light you will get in the eyes. Someone on this forum said to me once about light in the eyes (or lack of it): "you have to get the light in there somehow or they will be dead." Great advice.

    Also, you might consider having more distance between the subject and the background for more blurring. First thing I thought when I saw the pic is "oh, he has a doona behind his head." A good rule of thumb is that the subject/background distance should be greater than the camera/subject distance. The more the better in my opinion Of course, your focal length and aperture will also have an impact on this (which you haven't provided us with).

    I hope this feedback doesn't deflate you too much, I think you have demonstrated a lot of potential in this pic and I look forward to seeing more of your work. In fact why don't you have another go and see if you can improve it Keep up the great work!

    PS: A great place to start your study is Colin's "school of portraiture" thread under the "People and Pets" forum. It's as 'sticky' right at the top.
    Last edited by Hans; 4th February 2011 at 11:08 PM.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Critique please

    Hi Justin,

    Critique please

    Feedback would be excellent!
    I opened it in ACR in CS5 so I could use Recovery (40) and Fill Light (40) to even up the lighting a little.
    I then did a mono conversion and sharpened with USM 100%, 0.3 px 4 threshold.
    Oh, and sorry, I toned down the cool logo so I could steal it

    Critique please

    I haven't tried to deal with the background issue raised by Hans though.

    A good effort though I thought, and you've learnt from it before we even said anything

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 4th February 2011 at 11:57 PM.

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Re: Critique please

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    It looks as if may be just a little bit off focus? How did you set the focus?
    Umm, well, I set the focus to only use the center point and I hoped that my eyes would end up being in focus. One thing I do know is that no matter what you do in a portrait, the eyes have GOT to be in focus (unless you're going for some different effect). But it's kinda hard to do for self-portraits. Where are you looking at when you say it's out of focus?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans View Post
    Of course, your focal length and aperture will also have an impact on this (which you haven't provided us with).
    Oh, sorry, here's the image info: 1/20th sec ISO-100 f/1.4 50mm
    I think the f/1.4 could be contributing to the out-of-focus look.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans View Post
    Also, you might consider having more distance between the subject and the background for more blurring. First thing I thought when I saw the pic is "oh, he has a doona behind his head."
    I'm sorry, I don't speak Australian, haha. What's a 'doona'?

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    Re: Critique please

    sorry Justin, a doona is a quilted blanket!
    Yes the f1.4 would be a little soft ( have the same lens if it is the 50mmf1.4D, it improves markedly at f1.8 and gets very good by f2.2, at f2.8 its a razor). Now that Dave has sharpened it, the pic is much sharper and that slight softness looks more to do with f1.4 plus resizing for internet, so I think you must have nailed the focus down pretty good here. Well done, hardest part of self-portrait is focus!

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Re: Critique please

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    I opened it in ACR in CS5 so I could use Recovery (40) and Fill Light (40) to even up the lighting a little.
    I then did a mono conversion and sharpened with USM 100%, 0.3 px 4 threshold.
    Hey, thanks for playing with it a bit. I was curious...is the Recovery tool in Photoshop CS2? I don't ever recall seeing it (although Photoshop is so big, I'm still learning new things every day)? And then what do you mean by 'mono conversion and sharpened with USM'?

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Critique please

    Quote Originally Posted by neverhood311 View Post
    Hey, thanks for playing with it a bit. I was curious...is the Recovery tool in Photoshop CS2? I don't ever recall seeing it (although Photoshop is so big, I'm still learning new things every day)? And then what do you mean by 'mono conversion and sharpened with USM'?
    Hi Justin,

    The Recovery tool is in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), along with the Fill light one (both on the Basic tab), but as the latter didn't arrive until CS3, maybe the same is true for the Recovery (explaining why you've not seen it).

    When I processed jpg with ACR, it 'developed' some colour, so I needed to remove it by re-converting to monochrome. USM is UnSharp Mask, which I used to address the small focus error - I tell you, that would have been a lot worse had I done it

    Cheers,

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Re: Critique please

    Critique please

    Here's attempt #2. This time I got my roommate to hold up my bedsheet near me to get some of that shadow filled in. I also turned the other way; towards the light. The focus was still set to Auto and I just hoped that my eye was under the selected focus point.

    What bugs me about this attempt is that I couldn't get the backdrop up the same way, so it wasn't lit at all and, seeing as I don't have any sort of 3-point lighting setup, my head gets lost in the dark backdrop. Hmmmm. (Oh yeah, and I forgot to shave. There's not much motivation for that when all I'm gonna do all day is watch the BYU game on TV.)

    Here's the dirty details: 1/20th sec, ISO 100, f/1.4, 50mm
    Last edited by neverhood311; 6th February 2011 at 04:27 PM.

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    Re: Critique please

    Better

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    Re: Critique please

    Don't shoot at a 1/20 sec. It only takes the coursing of blood through your veins to cause a bit of motion (most young people have a pulse of 65 beats per minute), hence a slight blur (or, in this case, too soft)...and the eyes seem to forced open to avoid the fatal blink. You might try increasing your sharpness around the eyes a bit as well.
    Self portraits are always interesting..I think we should all try one..hmmm, maybe I will start a thread on this.

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Re: Critique please

    I've got another one for you guys. I tend to take self portraits when I'm extremely bored and can't bring myself to do homework.
    Critique please

    This was lit with an 85-watt Flashpoint fluorescent bulb and this 33" umbrella as well as a Speedlite 430ex II off to the side. I used my 17-85mm lens at about 26mm (crop factor pushes it to 41.6mm)

    Once again, my 7D was on a tripod, and I triggered it with a remote shutter release in my left hand.
    ISO 250, 26mm, 1/125th second, f/4.5.

    What works? What could use some improvement? Why didn't I notice that large shadow cast by my nose?

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    Re: Critique please

    Kudos for using the most accessible/tolerant/patient model for your practicing, something I am loathe to do.
    AND you have a friend (me, I'm friendless boo-hoo) to help with bedsheets (I mean reflectors).
    I prefer the facial expression on the last pic (with umbrella).
    Now can you do one where you are looking down to the side, as if thoughtful/contemplative?
    Using narrow lighting (if that is the phrase, light the side of face away from camera, so more of the face is in shadow).

    See, even if I am unwilling to use myself as a model, I can always experience it vicariously!!

    Graham
    (shy, and most definintely not photogenic, knows which side of the camera he belongs)

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Re: Critique please

    Thanks for the tips, Graham, but I'm no model, haha. I'm much more interested in lighting, but I don't think any of my roommates would model for me.

    Is that shadow cast by my nose distracting, though? Should I get my other umbrella out and try to fill it in a little?

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    Re: Critique please

    Quote Originally Posted by neverhood311 View Post
    Is that shadow cast by my nose distracting, though? Should I get my other umbrella out and try to fill it in a little?
    To me it is distracting, but it is more the angle than the fact it is a shadow. Higher light would give a more classic Rembrandt effect (triangle lighted area surrounded by shadow beneath eye).
    The way the shadow cuts across doesn't look good to me.

    Self portrait book by Miss Aniela is quite good. Of course the fact that she is young, good looking and prepared to pose in various states of undress gives her an advantage over us not so good looking males who are even worse in states of undress (and some of you know what I mean A picture tells a story - constructive critique on composition wanted)

    Graham

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    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: Critique please

    Hi Justin.

    Fine looking young man you found to model for you! I'm having the same problems with the pesky nose shadow thing. Next time I addressed it I was going to bring my light a little more toward lens axis and maybe higher to see what that is going to do. Maybe a bedsheet on the opposite side!

    I saw a video the other day that gave an interesting tip for getting the eyes in focus for a self-portrait. Take a light stand and raise it to exactly eye level height with the end (adaptor, whatever you have on the end of it) at the exact spot in the frame where you think your eyes are going to be. Focus on the adaptor, set to manual focus. Then step into the frame and move your head/eyes right to where that adaptor (or whatever) is and just move the stand out of frame without moving your head. Havenít tried it, but sounds as reasonable as anything else!

  17. #17

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    Re: Critique please

    You could always hook up your camera to the TV (or tethered if you have got a pro model) so you can see what the camera sees.

    Graham

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    Re: Critique please

    Hi Justin,

    The main problem I see with this is lack of contast and lack of sharpness. The background on the other hand could be more blurred.

    Cheers!
    Alis

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Re: Critique please

    Quote Originally Posted by Alis View Post
    The main problem I see with this is lack of contast and lack of sharpness. The background on the other hand could be more blurred.
    Thanks for the advice.

    The background on this final image is actually completely Photoshop. I took this photo in my bedroom and you could see the corners of the room, part of the window and blinds and I think you could see my pillow. I masked all of that out and replaced it with a simple gradient. I would have used my 50mm f/1.4 for a more shallow depth of field (and lower ISO), but the room was too small for me to back up that far.

    As far as low-ish contrast goes, I was standing close enough to the walls that light probably bounced back and lit some areas that would have otherwise been dark. Do you think I should try a larger room so as to get less light bounced from the walls? Or just add more contrast in Photoshop?

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