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Thread: Does this qualify as a portrait?

  1. #1
    abhi's Avatar
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    Does this qualify as a portrait?

    If it does, here is my first portraiture A candid shot of my wife reading a newspaper in the train. The sidelight from the window was interesting, and as I was already playing with my camera I took a few shots. Does it look OK?

    I wish I had kept a little more space on the left. I have done basic adjustments in Lightroom - WB, Black point, S-Curve, capture sharpening and clarity. What else can I do to improve the photo?

    Does this qualify as a portrait?
    Canon 300D, EF-S18-55mm, 1/4s @ 28mm @ f/4 @ ISO 400

    Thank you for viewing. Critiques and comments are welcome.

  2. #2

    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    I like this. I like the light and her concentration and the way her beautiful curls are falling. The red on the newspaper, at the bottom of the frame is distracting, I think, though. I don't know what to say to do but, personally, I would crop it - I'm sure there's something else to be done, too. Actually, I wonder if you could crop in on the left, too, just cropping off the shine on the fingers of her right hand - no, that would be too far - a little photoshop? Somehow, the focus need to go on her eyes/forehead. I'm sure there are other solutions. Anyone else....??? Just trying to come up with ideas.
    Last edited by Katy Noelle; 12th April 2011 at 09:12 PM.

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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    For my students sake, (and perhaps no other), I give three labels to the word "Portrait." The first is called Formal. Formal is generally (not always) produced in a studio or at the very least in a very controlled lighting area. The subjects are fully aware they are posing for the camera, but more importantly, they are trying to convey a special moment or emotion. The next is called, Informal. In the informal context, there is a "made" connecton between the shooter (you) and the shootee (your subject). There is an awareness of your presence, and they know the camera is aimed in their direction, but there isn't the sense of a "formalized" pose. they are stopping for a moment in their own space and time. A lot of good people street shooting falls in this category. The last portrait mode is what you have here, and that is called the "candid." There is neither a direct connection between your wife and the camera but a special mood is shown, though the intent is strictly one-sided...it is your directed point of view. Candids are those good shots of friends and family we catch at the oddest, funnest, happiest or in some cases, the saddest moments of our lives. John F Kennedy, Jr saluting his daddy's casket is a wonderful example of a good (well, in this case, great) candid.

    This candid of your wife is nicely composed and pretty well PP-ed though I would do a burn overlay to try to get more detail out of the newspaper. hope this helps...

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    Willie or Jiro is fine by me.

    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Quote Originally Posted by abhi View Post
    ...What else can I do to improve the photo?

    Does this qualify as a portrait?
    Nice work, Abhi. What else can you do to improve this shot?... A little more extra sharpening on her, maybe. A bigger way to improve it is too... ask her to look at you then take the shot.

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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Thanks Katy, Chris and Jiro for your kind words.

    Special thanks to you Chris for teaching me Potraiture 101 . I regret not taking up a couple of chances I had to take a photography course for free a few years ago (I hate homework ). So, I truly love this forum for what it provides me in terms of a chance to interact with photography teachers like yourself, professionals, and amateurs at all levels.

    Katy, I think I can darken the shine off the fingers and the hairs using a dodge and burn method that Jiro taught me yesterday. And now that you mention it, I do find the red on the newspaper a little distracting.

    Chris, would a burn overlay be same as using a 50% gray layer on top of the image in overlay mode, and then using a white brush to lighten the area. That's the dodge and burn technique I learnt from Jiro yesterday.

    Jiro, what would you think of a composition if she had her eyes on the red on the newspaper? I do not like the idea of her looking at me because then she can't be reading the newspaper in the photo Oh and the fact that I am just awful at posed photos. Just take a look at this.

    Does this qualify as a portrait?

    I wanted to photograph her looking out, and the reflection of the outside on her glasses. And managed to fail miserably at both

  6. #6
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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Quote Originally Posted by abhi View Post
    Thanks Katy, Chris and Jiro for your kind words.

    Special thanks to you Chris for teaching me Potraiture 101 . I regret not taking up a couple of chances I had to take a photography course for free a few years ago (I hate homework ). So, I truly love this forum for what it provides me in terms of a chance to interact with photography teachers like yourself, professionals, and amateurs at all levels.

    Katy, I think I can darken the shine off the fingers and the hairs using a dodge and burn method that Jiro taught me yesterday. And now that you mention it, I do find the red on the newspaper a little distracting.

    Chris, would a burn overlay be same as using a 50% gray layer on top of the image in overlay mode, and then using a white brush to lighten the area. That's the dodge and burn technique I learnt from Jiro yesterday.

    Jiro, what would you think of a composition if she had her eyes on the red on the newspaper? I do not like the idea of her looking at me because then she can't be reading the newspaper in the photo Oh and the fact that I am just awful at posed photos. Just take a look at this.

    Does this qualify as a portrait?

    I wanted to photograph her looking out, and the reflection of the outside on her glasses. And managed to fail miserably at both
    What made your "candid" shot look good is the play between lights and shadows, lines and curves. I like the way her hands folded together then the upper fingers are pointing back to her head like leading lines. The straight and diagonal position of the arms helps to keep balance with the weight of her head on the frame. Even if you take another shot with her "looking" intently at the red part of the newspaper it will still look OK "IF" the lines and the curves are held the same way.

    The 2nd shot is actually good, too. Any shot that can tell or can hold its own story is a strong image. That is what you have achieved here. Unfortunately, you cropped it too tight (for me). I would definitely want to see the totality of her head to balance the dark areas with the bright areas on the right. Again, a little sharpening on the eye areas would help solidify this shot. My advice (based on my intake of caffeine ) is that be liberal on taking many shots. Practice a lot in being aware of everything that is being captured inside the frame before pressing that shutter. In that way, you can have that feel if you have captured that nice fleeting moment with the right expression off her face and that nice play of light to make it work. Remember, be aware... then press.

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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Burn overlay is the same as Jiro suggested, only you would use the brush set to black and lower the opacity to suit. I generally start around 30% and adjust accordingly from there just by moving the opacity slider.

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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Abhi, if you want to practice how to compose your shot without a camera you could try this wonderful technique shown in this video. I do this most of the time and I have one made out of old plastic cards in my pocket and one larger using a hard black cardboard that i usually keep in the van.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/marcsilb.../2/tSEo9dBlvE4

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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Very nice image Abhi. Thank you Chris and Willie for 2 lessons .

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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Quote Originally Posted by jamn4ex View Post
    Very nice image Abhi. Thank you Chris and Willie for 2 lessons .
    Thank you, James.

  11. #11
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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Thank you, Jiro for that link and the lesson in composition. Thanks, Chris for the confirmation.

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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    How is this version? Cropped out the red in the newspaper; burned the newspaper, the shine in the hair, fingers, and the edge of the glasses; added sharpening on her and the hair.

    Does this qualify as a portrait?

  13. #13

    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Quote Originally Posted by abhi View Post
    How is this version? Cropped out the red in the newspaper; burned the newspaper, the shine in the hair, fingers, and the edge of the glasses; added sharpening on her and the hair.

    Does this qualify as a portrait?
    I DID read through what everyone has said but can't quite remember it all - sorry. Jiro, miniChris? Post processing - is this better? The knuckles on her right hand are possibly still a little bit too shiny. Looks great to me, though! I think this is repeating what has already been said but, next time, you can think about which part should be in focus - usually it's the eyes - even in this case (and how much dof is needed to get the other pertinent parts in focus and still have a fast enough shutter speed, etc., etc. - sorry, I don't know your skill level.) Also, you can think about angles of taking the photo for your composition - i.e. schlumping down in your seat a little to, maybe, get more of her face but, in this case - I really get a sense of where she is, her quiet concentration, how lovely she is and I love the beautiful light shining on her. Travelling by train...!

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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Quote Originally Posted by Katy Noelle View Post
    The knuckles on her right hand are possibly still a little bit too shiny. Looks great to me, though!
    Thanks, Katy. This is the best I could achieve with my limited PS skills. I am sure it can be easily improved upon. There is also a dark patch,in the background, near the knuckles, now

    And thanks for the tips I tried a few low angles too, but they didn't come out good. The folding table on which she's resting her hands didn't help with angles either The only other issue was limited light. So, I had to take it wide open (f/4@1/4s@400ISO). For my camera I find the noise at higher ISOs, 800 or 1600, to be little too high.

  15. #15

    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Quote Originally Posted by abhi View Post
    I tried a few low angles too, but they didn't come out good. The folding table on which she's resting her hands didn't help with angles either
    That's because, this version is 'the one' - it really is lovely! But, Urgh! I know about just not being able to get to the right angle! rolleyes:

    The only other issue was limited light. So, I had to take it wide open (f/4@1/4s@400ISO). For my camera I find the noise at higher ISOs, 800 or 1600, to be little too high.
    I know what you're thinking and I've been there, too, but, after consideration and watching the discussions in the non-square cropped portrait thread, I've come to the conclusion that, often, for candid portraits in tricky light, a higher ISO is completely acceptable. I mean, it's hard to ask someone to move into the light and, then, to act as if it's "candid". (Oooo - I'm being silly - sorry!) For example, at church, the whole floor in that old building shakes tremendously when anyone walks on it. I love getting candids of the kids (who are on.the.go!) but, moreso, from the older, beautiful women who stand sweetly still for me. After lots of practice - even with the wash of light coming through the windows - I just have to put it at ISO1600 and they come out beautifully. Just something to think about. I'm no expert.

    ISO1600

    Does this qualify as a portrait?
    (But I don't have the better crop of this, handily available and uploaded on flickr.)

  16. #16
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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Quote Originally Posted by Katy Noelle View Post
    Does this qualify as a portrait?
    (But I don't have the better crop of this, handily available and uploaded on flickr.)
    This photo is lovely. I will have to give 1600 a shot, but whenever I've tried it for birds the pupil of the eye becomes noisy and it just doesn't look good. It might be my camera (300D). 1600 is the maximum ISO it goes to.

  17. #17

    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Quote Originally Posted by abhi View Post
    This photo is lovely. I will have to give 1600 a shot, but whenever I've tried it for birds the pupil of the eye becomes noisy and it just doesn't look good. It might be my camera (300D). 1600 is the maximum ISO it goes to.
    Now, after all the discussion of shooting birds that I've read.... I can't remember what ISO they usually use. I don't think it's above 400. (GEESH! I really was paying attention.) However, with a bird, you want more definition with those gorgeous feathers and a very bright eye, indeed. With portraits and my 60mm prime lens - it is so sharp that the higher ISO helps even out the skin - even Britta's here. She has peaches and cream skin but I still had to touch it up, a little. I think that, for the studio, though, that's a whole other type of approach where you can control lighting and stillness, etc., etc. to be just right for your needs. (If anyone else wants to confirm or contradict - please, go for it!)

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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Quote Originally Posted by Katy Noelle View Post
    Now, after all the discussion of shooting birds that I've read.... I can't remember what ISO they usually use. I don't think it's above 400. (GEESH! I really was paying attention.) However, with a bird, you want more definition with those gorgeous feathers and a very bright eye, indeed. With portraits and my 60mm prime lens - it is so sharp that the higher ISO helps even out the skin - even Britta's here. She has peaches and cream skin but I still had to touch it up, a little. I think that, for the studio, though, that's a whole other type of approach where you can control lighting and stillness, etc., etc. to be just right for your needs. (If anyone else wants to confirm or contradict - please, go for it!)
    I think I'll ..... confirm

    I find very high iso (for whatever your camera is capable of) usually also brings softening due to in camera high frequency roll-off. As Katy says, for portraiture, this is usually no bad thing, compared to say; trying to get feather detail on a bird, anyway.

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    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    I find very high iso (for whatever your camera is capable of) usually also brings softening due to in camera high frequency roll-off. As Katy says, for portraiture, this is usually no bad thing, compared to say; trying to get feather detail on a bird, anyway.
    Thank you, Katy and Dave. I wish I could remember details like you do, Katy .

  20. #20

    Re: Does this qualify as a portrait?

    Quote Originally Posted by abhi View Post
    Thank you, Katy and Dave. I wish I could remember details like you do, Katy .
    Oh, deary me, noooooooo! I don't remember all my numbers and details, at all - that would be Dave. However, inch by inch, anything's a cinch! I've gotten so stressed out in the last couple of months because I want to know everything - RIGHT NOW! wished it worked that way but, definitely - inch by inch does!

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