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Archive 2012 · Newborn Photos
  
 
WhiteH2O
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Newborn Photos


I posted these a few other places, and can't get anyone to say anything about them. I guess that can't be a good thing, but I do want to know how I can improve. This set is my second time shooting in a studio in over ten years (since I was in High School), I just got some lights and set up a studio in the living room to take these. I am just looking for what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong. Any input is appreciated.



Mother and Daughter by Shaun Rasmussen, on Flickr


Sleeping on Dad's hand by Shaun Rasmussen, on Flickr


Safe in Father's arms by Shaun Rasmussen, on Flickr


Dangling from an arm by Shaun Rasmussen, on Flickr




Feb 06, 2012 at 10:51 PM
alatoo60
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Newborn Photos


First of all - I like your pictures, especially #1 and 2.
Now, the critique part. I do not like dense black background. It may work with other subjects, but newborns need some light and softness, as they are so vulnerable. Another thing is the difference in a skin tone of a mother and a child - black background emphasized magenta especially well. One more - composition. Because of the crop, your models look so lonely I am almost scared for them. Try tighter crops and softer light. If you do not like white background, you can do soft gray, or any kind of pastel.
I do not know if you are trying to create a fne art portrait or a candid shot. If your goal is fine art, then I would clean the woman's neck for a smooth line.
And how about B&W?
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7167/6832605887_1c0946ce22_b.jpg



Feb 06, 2012 at 11:46 PM
WhiteH2O
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Newborn Photos


Thanks, alatoo60. It never occurred to me about looking lonely with the crop, now that I look at it in that way, I can see what you mean. I struggled with the difference between skin tones a lot. My wife has very green skin, and daughter has very magenta skin. I tried b&w, but I thought the desaturated looked better on this, perhaps I should re-visit.

I think in the next few days I will try something similar but use the white seamless instead of the black. I really liked the black background, but perhaps I should keep it for something other than a newborn.

Anyone else have any input?



Feb 07, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Newborn Photos


I'm not qualified to comment on lighting, but from personal experience you have a wonderful subject to document in coming years. I think @alatoo60 raises many valid points

One general comment - lose the wristwatch.

Regards,

Bob



Feb 07, 2012 at 01:12 AM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Newborn Photos


When the skin coloration is this different, it's a significant mistake to apply over-all corrections to the image and expect a reasonable color result. It takes selection to isolate the subject and then correct. If both subjects need correction, do it in two or more corrections.


Feb 07, 2012 at 07:47 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Newborn Photos


When lighting multiple faces in a group shot (2 or more) it is very difficult to get flattering natural looking light on both faces when they are facing opposite directions.

Shot #1:

With the pose as is you'd want to use two gridded or snooted key lights. One you would want to place behind the mother 45 from her nose (135 from camera axis) and 45 above the eye line, to "short" light her face with the broad side in shadow. Then for the baby you'd want to place it's key light similarly RELATIVE TO THE NOSE and EYES 45 to the left of the nose (about 90 from the camera axis). That creates a crossed lighting scenario which will wind up not putting much light at all in some places neither light reaches. To prevent those dark crossed shadows in this and any other lighting pattern put a fill source about chin level with the subject with your camera directly above it. I use a 22" dish with a sock for my fill that way most of the time.

If you changed the pose and had mom looking full face at the camera and not hidden by the baby it would be much easier to light. With mom looking full face the and the baby angled as it is you'd be able to get both faces in the key light placed to the left 45 from mom's nose, with fill again kept near the camera. The light behind at 135 from the camera axis would become rim lighting on their backs.


Lighting the face of a reclining person isn't any different than if upright because perceptually the viewer will look for the same highlight/shadow clues to 3D shape on the face. So in terms of key light placement on the baby's face there are two options that will produce flattering, natural lighting on the face:

Butterfly: In a butterfly pattern you aim the nose at the key light and angle it 45 downward to the eyes. For example in shot #2 if the key light was to the left and forward, level with and aimed at the spot between the baby's eyes the face would have a butterfly pattern on it similar to what you would see if the baby was held the same way next to a window to the left.

Short lighting: Placing a key light 45 to the side OF THE NOSE and 45 above the EYE LINE will, due to the shape of human faces, create a "mask" pattern of highlights on the forehead, top of cheeks, and top of chin that naturally define the 3D shape of the face.

Those patterns seem natural because those are the angles natural light comes from at 10AM, 12 Noon, and 2PM:

Morning: "short" pattern complements "oblique" facial angle
http://super.nova.org/TP/SnowHead2009_1.jpg
Noon: "butterfly" pattern complements symmetry of full face pose.
http://super.nova.org/TP/SnowHead2009_Solstice.jpg
Afternoon: "short" pattern complements "oblique" facial angle
http://super.nova.org/TP/SnowHead2009_Afternoon.jpg

So if you keep your key light oriented at 0H45V to spot between the eyes (butterfly) in a full face pose, or 45H45V to spot between the eyes (short) in an oblique facial angle, regardless of how the face oriented (upright or laying down) the face will wind up seeming more natural looking and flattering in the portrait because those patterns match our mental image of what a face should look like. Short lighting a reclining figure is difficult without a boom to suspend the light in mid air to keep the stand out of the shot.

What you want to avoid if you want natural looking lighting is putting the key light at eye level or below which as the effect of reversing all the natural modeling clues, giving faces a sinister, otherworldly (lit from the fires of Hell metaphorically) appearance. The same cause and effect as making a scary face by holding a flashlight under your chin.

In terms of posing faces in reclining poses are easier to relate to at a 45 angle than horizontal. That's the reason the second shot with the baby at an angle looks less static and is easier to relate to than in 3 and 4 when held horizontal.

So to put this all together, try this next time:

1) Angle the baby upward 45 not horizontal - take off the watch.

2) Place the light for either butterfly or short lighting on the baby's face - try both.

For the group shots:

Start with poses where mom and baby are looking at the camera full face with centered butterfly lighting.

Next have mom look full face and baby to the left, with key light to left short lighting mom's face (45H45V) from her nose. Then coach her to move the baby to get it in flattering light also at the same time.

When shooting stop and look at the edges of the frame. Crop wide enough at capture so you don't chop off limbs. You can refine the crop / composition in the editing stage.

Don't make the clothing and background so dark it becomes a cave. Fill at chin level just under the lens of the camera will allow you to control the detail. Better to overfill a bit at capture and burn in during editing than to wind up with a "vagrant" baby and Daddy i.e. no visible means of support.

When setting up lights I put a black and white towels on a stand and adjust fill until I can see detail in the folds of the black one, and then raise accent and key so accent is just below clipping (retaining detail in the white towel) with the key intensity in front slightly lower by eye until the balance of accent / key in the playback looks natural.

http://super.nova.org/TP/CardTargetHistoBlur.jpg



Feb 07, 2012 at 02:21 PM
alatoo60
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Newborn Photos


When the skin coloration is this different, it's a significant mistake to apply over-all corrections to the image and expect a reasonable color result.
Not really. I know at least two ways to easily correct this problem without selecting the subject.
One is in a Lab space, by manipulating "a" curve (that is responsible for green-magenta balance).
The other one is through "selective color" option in RGB space - select Red, and move Magenta slider left. Mother's skin color is not affected, as there are almost no red tones, and daughter's loses redness.
The easiest thing, though, would be to adjust the hues while still in RAW converter. I personally find this tool exceptionally effective for fine-tuning the colors.



Feb 07, 2012 at 04:31 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Newborn Photos


The color looks off to me blue/cyan cast ... not yet confident @ my monitor calibration since laptop rebuild, so take with a grain of salt (but do let me know).












Feb 07, 2012 at 05:26 PM
 

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WhiteH2O
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Newborn Photos


cgardner, thank you SO much for taking the time to post that!

That is a lot of information, and I have read it about 4 times already and I am starting to absorb what you were telling me. I am guessing this is lighting 101 stuff, perhaps I should get a book or something...

Anyways, that was very helpful. I will try this again attempting to follow what you said.

alatoo60, I will play with that and see what I can do, thanks again.

RustyBug, you might be right. My monitors aren't calibrated, but what you posted looks good to me, and comparing it to mine, yours makes mine look cyan.



Feb 07, 2012 at 05:59 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Newborn Photos


alatoo60 wrote:
When the skin coloration is this different, it's a significant mistake to apply over-all corrections to the image and expect a reasonable color result.
Not really. I know at least two ways to easily correct this problem without selecting the subject.
One is in a Lab space, by manipulating "a" curve (that is responsible for green-magenta balance).
The other one is through "selective color" option in RGB space - select Red, and move Magenta slider left. Mother's skin color is not affected, as there are almost no red tones, and daughter's loses redness.
The easiest thing, though, would be to adjust the hues
...Show more

The same could be said for making adjustment to the RGB or CMYK values via color balance, etc. Whether using LAB, selective color, color balance, etc., they are still selective adjustments (albeit per channel) and not a true "over all" correction ... even though they may not involve selective masking technique and marching ants.

+1 @ multiple ways to achieve selectivity.



Feb 07, 2012 at 06:07 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Newborn Photos


alatoo60 wrote:
When the skin coloration is this different, it's a significant mistake to apply over-all corrections to the image and expect a reasonable color result.
Not really. I know at least two ways to easily correct this problem without selecting the subject.
One is in a Lab space, by manipulating "a" curve (that is responsible for green-magenta balance). ....


In addition to the points Kent made, I disagree because we obviously have a different objective for the adjustment result. (I used "coloration" in the artist sense as hue and shade.) Neonates usually have issues with both hue *and* shade - they are ruddier and darker. Correcting hue will not fix any residual darkness (shade). You can be factual and record the child as he or she is actually colored, or you can create a more idealize color match between the mother and child. Many years ago I worked as a hospital photographer and photographed a large number of mothers with their neonates. The families virtually alway preferred a closer skin tone match. (Back in the day that meant dodging the neonates in the B&W prints.) I'd wager today the same psychology applies and therefore the same objective for adjustment. That's why my objective for color adjusting is more than hue adjustment and I know of no way to bring both mother and neonate skin hue and shades together that does not include subject selection.

Note: Neonate was the hospital term use for newly born infants. The darkness and ruddiness of neonate skin can change fairly rapidly and is generally only an issue for a limited number of days after they are born, unless they are premature.



Feb 07, 2012 at 10:06 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Newborn Photos


If you want an objective reference for skin tones set custom WB off a gray card then include the card in a test shot for confirmation. That way the color, out of camera will be a trusted R=G=B on card neutral baseline.

Even when the neutrals are in balance there are many other variables which affect selective rendering of colors, such as the style setting in the camera. For example here is a MacBeth color checker chart rendered with different styles:

http://super.nova.org/TP/Styles480sRGB.jpg

Note how the colors change but the neutrals don't? That's the difference between selective color correction and global shifting of temperature (blue/yellow) and tint (green/magenta) in a RAW file which do affect the neutrals.

What I do with my portraits is open the test shot with the card in it and adjust in ACR using the Camera Profile tab seen in the screen shot below. The controls there work to selectively shift the colors in the skin and other colored objects without changing the neutrals.
http://super.nova.org/TP/ColorChartACRstyles.jpg
Having the gray card you know is R=G=B in the image helps keep your color perception objective as you adjust. Because our color vision adapts so readily to what we expect to see without the known neutral object you will quickly lose objectivity as you stare at the image on screen in the same way your brain adapts your perception in person based on knowledge that a shirt is white, etc.

Because I front load my process control of color management by setting Custom WB off the card I don't find I need to adjust my skin tones much if at all in studio lit shots because the expectation is color will be neutral / normal. I may shots warmer / cooler from the neutral capture baseline depending on the implied mood of the subject's expression and for outdoor shots I adjust to the context of the time of day clues in the shadows, neutral at mid-day and warmer in the morning and afternoon, cooler in overcast and shade vs neutral /warm in sunlight.

After tweeking the test shot with the card I copy / paste the adjustments to the other RAW files of the session that way the color is consistent shot-to-shot.



Feb 07, 2012 at 10:29 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Newborn Photos


When I worked as a portrait photographer I quickly learned that subject did not want accurate color, even if they said they did. They want color that looks good to them. Often what looks good to them is not accurate color.


Feb 07, 2012 at 11:11 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Newborn Photos


AuntiPode wrote:
When I worked as a portrait photographer I quickly learned that subject did not want accurate color, even if they said they did. They want color that looks good to them. Often what looks good to them is not accurate color.


Agree, but getting there from what the camera captures requires starting to control the process at capture and having some objective means of comparison in the workflow. You can't control what you can't measure and setting Custom WB off a gray card is for lack of a better method available on a digital camera, the best baseline I know.

Where color goes off into the ditch is when the photographer starts manipulating the color based solely on screen impressions without any references. Even on a perfectly calibrated monitor the eye will adapt and be fooled. The Miller Beer shot is a good example. The warm cast in the ice isn't noticed until you "snap" it to neutral with the eyedropper and compare before/after. But since ice is cool a slight blue bias in the ice has more emotional impact than neutral white.

Same is true of portraits. I shift them warm / cool as suits the context and implied mood. But I make the moves by comparison to a neutral / technically accurate shot "snapped" to neutral by Custom WB on the gray card at capture or with the eye dropper in PP.

My process control workflow is habit from many years of using control targets on press sheets and other form of reproduction. We'd start from the baseline of getting the density of the CYMK patches nominal, per densitometer readings, see how it looked from that baseline then adjust as needed for most perceptually pleasing color.



Feb 07, 2012 at 11:38 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Newborn Photos


Indeed. Accurate is the best starting point for adjustment.


Feb 08, 2012 at 01:14 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Newborn Photos


AuntiPode wrote:
Indeed. Accurate is the best starting point for adjustment.


Big "Double Ditto" ... way easier than playing "Sherlock Holmes" to try and figure it out and "undo" it, before you can "redo" it.

As always, S&P to taste.



Feb 08, 2012 at 02:40 AM





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