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Archive 2011 · Photos with Santa PP Help Wanted
  
 
no_surrender
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Photos with Santa PP Help Wanted


Please take a look through my gallery of "Photos with Santa" and let me know what you think. Any suggestions towards tweaking these photos is welcome.

Background: I shot these last weekend then had to go out of town for a few days. I have 2 days to process them before I'll be sending them out so the quicker I get suggestions the more time I'll have to try and improve them. Shot indoors with what I first thought was poor ambient lighting, but turns out I might have been able to get away without fill flash. One 430 EXII Speedlite was used 45 camera left and about 5 feet closer. Shot with 70-200 f/2.8L IS on a tripod at 2.8, ISO 320, 1/160. I honestly didn't notice the hard shadows until after the entire set was shot.

This is my first experience doing this kind of shoot and I know I probably made a lot of mistakes, but that's fine because I'll learn from them. Don't hold back on the C&C please. So far, the only PP I've done is apply a touch of luminance noise reduction in LR3 and some spot removal on a few of the subjects. Other than that, I don't remember doing anything else. The only software I have access to make edits is LR3 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 so please keep that in mind.

Thanks in advance! Kevin

EDIT: Additionally, I am a little curious as to if it is okay to post these photos of other people's children on here for C&C? These are strictly for the families for personal use, but may be later used in a gallery for self-promotion. When I first posted this I included my smugmug link with password to the entire gallery so you guys could see them all to better give suggestions, but (1) if you've seen one then you've seen them all because the only changes are whether it is a close-up shot or not and (2) the number of people in the frame. I thought maybe it wasn't necessary to give access to the entire gallery, plus I really don't want to get myself in trouble. The whole model release thing gets me nervous even though this was a free, public event. But how else can I get C&C without posting the images?





1

  Canon EOS 30D    70.0-200.0 mm lens    100mm    f/2.8    1/160s    320 ISO    0.0 EV  







2

  Canon EOS 30D    70.0-200.0 mm lens    95mm    f/2.8    1/160s    320 ISO    0.0 EV  







3 (The flash didn't fire in this shot, which is how I later knew maybe the fill light wasn't necessary)

  Canon EOS 30D    70.0-200.0 mm lens    95mm    f/2.8    1/160s    320 ISO    0.0 EV  







4

  Canon EOS 30D    70.0-200.0 mm lens    200mm    f/2.8    1/160s    320 ISO    0.0 EV  




Dec 08, 2011 at 06:42 PM
no_surrender
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Photos with Santa PP Help Wanted


Got a few suggestions to raise the exposure a bit and add vibrance. Anyone else have any suggestions?


Dec 09, 2011 at 06:15 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Photos with Santa PP Help Wanted


What you have here is a fundamental physics problem: flash exposure is only correct at one distance from the light. Because of that physical reality you need to compose flash lit scenes so EVERYTHING you want correctly exposed winds up a EQUAL DISTANCE to the light. When shooting with automatic ETTL flash the flash will avoid blowing out the nearer objects (the shiny wrapped packages in the foreground) resulting in underexposed faces further back. Putting your flash off camera to the side created uneven distance / intensity across the frame.

In a situation like Santa photos, or any group photo, you'd want to arrange the set-up so Santa and the kid are closest to the light and all the other props are either the same distance or further away from the light to either expose them the same, or allow the fall off of the flash to render them darker. The latter is usually better if you want Santa and the kid to be the focal point.

Next time you go to the mall look at the Santa photo operation and you'll see one light with a small or med. SB directly above the camera which is mounted on a super clamp to the light stand. It's a simple but very effective set-up creating flattering "Butterfly" lighting for the full face pose. There is no need for a second fill light because the butterfly pattern doesn't create any shadows which the camera sees they get hidden behind the subjects.

A quick way to remedy your less ideal lighting in Photoshop is with a Levels adjustment layer...

http://super.nova.org/EDITS/Santa1.jpg

Above I added a Levels adjustment layer. I adjusted the right and middle sliders until the faces looked "normal". That clipped the closer objects on the right. To prevent that I clicked on the mask icon on the Levels adjustment layer to make it active then with a black brush selected painted over the edit window where I wanted the darker foreground tone from the original to show. It took about 30 sec.

http://super.nova.org/EDITS/Santa2.jpg

Beyond the basic Levels adjustment you might want to crop, dodge/burn and clone out distractions to make the people contrast more.

http://super.nova.org/EDITS/Santa3.jpg

All things that would have happened more or less automatically if the set was arranged with Santa's chair in the foreground and all the other props further back.

When faced with a situation where I'm asked to photograph something and see that the set-up designed by someone else in the photo isn't going to work well I'll tell them and see if the set-up can be adjusted. Usually all it takes is a test shot to show them the exposure problem to convince them.



Dec 09, 2011 at 04:08 PM
no_surrender
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Photos with Santa PP Help Wanted


cgardner - Thanks for the suggestions and explanation. Since this isn't exactly something that can be done once and pasted to the rest of the gallery (not all shots were taken from exact same focal length...I had to re-position the lens in every shot to focus on the eyes of each child), I'm not sure I want to make individual corrections due to how time consuming it could be. After I posted the pictures in this thread, I did however, raise the exposure and add vibrance and clone out the stain in this kids' jacket. Perhaps I could let the parents know they can choose one or maybe two photos to be re-touched. Otherwise, I think they're going to get what they're going to get unless I can apply it in mass. Note: I'm not lazy, it was a free shoot....

I agree with positioning the props and chair. I actually did have them move the trees and gifts closer because when I arrived everything was spread out a little further. They were all very helpful, but due to my inexperience I didn't catch the "lighting" aspect of the scene until it was too late. I didn't care for the backdrop much either. The ornaments were so large and spread out that it didn't seem like a good fit for such a tight window to shoot. In hindsight, I would have done pretty much what I think you are suggesting, placing the trees and gifts beside or behind the chair and let it be the background or at least not in the foreground to catch light that needs to be focused on the subject.

Question: Why the tighter crop? Also, What do you think about applying a dark vignetting on the edges?

Kevin



Dec 09, 2011 at 05:20 PM
 

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cgardner
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Photos with Santa PP Help Wanted


no_surrender wrote:
Question: Why the tighter crop? Also, What do you think about applying a dark vignetting on the edges?


Answer:

Cropping is a form of editing the story. Decide what is most important and how much background is needed to put it into context. There was more context than necessary. The more pixels you waste on props the smaller the kid's face is in the shot. Look in the photo and identify everything bigger or contrasting more than the kid's face in the photo. Then ask yourself if it is more important than the kid's face.

The kid is on Santa's lap is enough to convey it is a Christmas shot. Everything else is best seen but not to the point it pulls attention off the kid's face to go check it out. As mentioned previously that can controlled when shooting by how you arrange the foreground > background scene elements. Putting Santa in the foreground with the tree and presents further back behind on the sides would allow the camera and lighting to make them less sharp and bright and less distracting from the star of the shot, the kid.

As for a vignette? Yes, toning down the edges helps draw attention to the face in the center. My creating the mask to correct the underexposed faces had the same effect of burning in the edges of a correctly exposed shot. In the cropped version I also burned in the edges some.



Dec 10, 2011 at 01:44 AM
no_surrender
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Photos with Santa PP Help Wanted


cgardner wrote:
Answer:

Cropping is a form of editing the story. Decide what is most important and how much background is needed to put it into context. There was more context than necessary. The more pixels you waste on props the smaller the kid's face is in the shot. Look in the photo and identify everything bigger or contrasting more than the kid's face in the photo. Then ask yourself if it is more important than the kid's face.

The kid is on Santa's lap is enough to convey it is a Christmas shot. Everything else is best seen but not to the
...Show more

Thanks once again cgardner! Definitely feel like I just got schooled on composition and will remember that for future sessions. Bad news is I can't go back in time. Good news is there will be more opportunities for me to improve upon my past mistakes.



Dec 10, 2011 at 02:00 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Photos with Santa PP Help Wanted


There is no such thing as a problem, only opportunities to do things better next time..


Dec 10, 2011 at 02:17 AM





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