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Archive 2012 · OT - Touch of reality
  
 
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #1 · OT - Touch of reality


I find this interesting, and worthy of consideration in our photographic pursuits.

http://moreintelligentlife.com/blog/tim-de-lisle/cate-cover

Bob



Feb 28, 2012 at 01:13 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #2 · OT - Touch of reality


Thanks for the link, Bob. Good on them and Cate to go with a more realistic portrait.

This is an interesting topic. Where do you draw the line? It's not like it's a new issue. Famous portrait painters of centuries past worked hard to make sure their clients were recognizable but "prettied them up". Pox was common in the past, but you don't see portraits of the famous showing their pock marks.

Any good traditional portrait photographer will use lighting, angles and lenses to present their customers in a flattering way. Can we not also use retouching tools to that end? Should there be restrictions? Can I just use tools to remove blemishes and not use liquify and other tools to change the subject's facial shape? I'm just playing devil's advocate.



Feb 28, 2012 at 02:26 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #3 · OT - Touch of reality


No retouching but the photographer really didn't do her any favors with the heavy lighting ratio.

The illusion of 3D shape is created with contrast. If you start with perfectly flat lighting as a foundation there is very little illusion of shape or texture created in a full face pose. Butterfly strategy adds downward modeling to that foundation but if key and fill are kept equal and far from the face the modeling is very subtle. It gets its name from the shape of the nose shadow seen below it, but with neutral fill and a low ratio you can create a butterfly pattern where no nose shadow anywhere is noticed...







The absence of dark harsh shadows on the face or "hard" distinct specular highlights on the skin create the illusion the face is smooth and rounded. The absence of shadow clues is the result of fill placement and level. In that shot the fill was set to just barely reveal the detail in the dark clothing on the DR of my camera, which numerically requires a ratio of about 2:1 where key = fill and overlaps in a 1+1:1 reflected ratio. The rate of fall off front > back from nose to ears is a function of light distance. Above both lights were about 8ft away resulting in very gradual shadow gradient front > back.

That same strategy is ideal for older wrinkled faces. What caused the wrinkles to show? Lack of fill in the low spots and specular reflections on the higher ones. How do eliminate wrinkles with lighting? Keep the fill centered at chin level so it reaches down into all the low spots the camera sees with enough intensity to render them nearly as light in tone as the adjacent highlighted skin. Minimizing the specularity on the skin also works to reduce the overall contrast resulting in a "flatter" (i.e. less contrast in terms of measured reflectance) and a flatter less wrinkled appearance.

Moving the key light slightly off center relative to the nose results in a variant called "Loop" lighting due to loop shaped shadow cast downward onto the upper lip. This lighting is first seen in 14th century portraits and is imitated in photographic portraits. But in terms of cause and effect what does the shadow do vs. the similar butterfly pattern? The overall lighting and modeling of the face is similar but now the shadow causes the nose to be noticed in a way that distorts the shape of the nose. Is that more or less flattering? Opinions on that will vary but I think not. Why then do some use it? I can only conclude because their goal is to duplicate the look of the painter's style, not to find the most flattering lighting strategy for the subject.

There's no better example of that than "Rembrandt" lighting. I wish I had a dollar for every beginner that plopped their 50 year old wife in front of the camera and put a Rembrandt pattern with a 5:1 ratio on her face as their first attempt at lighting a face. Mind you it's a very effective pattern for your moody 80 year-old grandpa but perhaps not the wisest if your goal is to flatter the wife and convince her the 2-grand you just spend on lighting gear was a good investment. Why then to people use Rembrandt lighting and think it's so great? Mostly because it's named after a famous dead painter and looks more dramatic than normal lighting. The real drama is when the wife starts complaining about how you added another 10 years to her face instead of subtracting 20

There are an infinite variety of styles of lighting by I find that two are the most naturally flattering.

I start most portait sessions with a very generic "normal" looking baseline of a full tonal range achieved with fill and key intensities to match sensor range in a butterfly pattern. When I use a hair light I keep the parts of the subject it hits below clipping:





Nothing spectacular or dramatic, just a well lit rendering of what the subject looks like...





Butterfly in a 2:1 ratio is very forgiving in that the subject can move around and stay in good light...





When you have an animated subject like the one above, a neighbor's kid I've shot over the years for holiday cards you just need to keep up as the kids goof off to get some great shots...





The little brother did that spontaneously while goofing off and then we refined it. I get the best posing ideas from just finding a way to get the subjects to relax and butterfly is a great strategy for that because the posing isn't as critical as when key light is placed to the side. For example this is an oblique view with centered "butterfly" lighting.







It's not as ideal in modeling the face in an oblique view as when the key light is placed 45 to the side of the nose as here...







... but there weren't any dark poorly placed distracting shadows with the oblique/butterfly combo either. It's a vert forgiving pattern. The photos with the kilt were for the boy's confirmation Mom's idea not his but he was OK with it, in part because the outfit came with a real knife in the sock...







... which probably isn't a bad idea of you wear a skirt. At least Mom didn't make him go "commando"..

In keeping with the boy become man theme of the event as as the session progressed I transitioned to darker shadow ratios to make him look older and more serious ending with this profile view using the hair light from the other shots as my "key" light for this one...







This is the shot SOOC, so as with the cover I didn't do much in PP besides crop it. That was pretty much the case in all of them except the shots of the girl, who has dark bags under her eyes due to allergies I remove with cloning in lighten mode in much the same way make-up would.

When I retouch older female subjects my goal is to wind up with a result that looks as if they had a good professional make-up job. Make-up artists do the same thing with paint as photographers do with lighting, highlighting the raised surfaces like the tops of the cheeks and ridge of the nose and shading the lower ones. That's why in fashion and glamor dead flat ring lighting and mostly flat butterfly are commonly used. The lighting intentionally gives the MUA a "blank" canvas to work with.

Butterfly lighting in a full face view is similar in that is doesn't "get it the way" of the person revealing their personality via their expression. Arguably if the subject is a grumpy old man a hiding half the face in a shadow in a Rembrandt pattern will help convey that, but he'd also look like a grumpy old man with 2:1 butterfly lighting is he was looking at the camera and scowling.

As I say about most things the best results in portraits starting with the goal of the reaction you want in the mind of the viewer and then finding the best strategies to create it. If you want the viewer to like the subject you'll want to put light in the eyes and mouth and have them look with eyes centered in the sockets at the camera to make "eye contact" with the viewer. If you want the viewer to think the subject of the photo is distant or unapproachable, or wants to be seen but not disturbed you would do pretty much the opposite divert and shade the eyes and face.

If you want to flatter the wife and convince her that setting up a studio in the living room was a good I idea I would suggest the former rather than the latter. Save the Rembrandt for when grandpa visits....












Feb 28, 2012 at 03:47 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #4 · OT - Touch of reality


There's a small culture war against retouching. Phooey. Sometimes people *want* heavy retouching. I know *I* am at the point in life where *I* want it. And, professionals who media exposure is a working asset have solid career and financial reasons for the best look possible. The anti-photoshop fascists don't impress me.


Feb 28, 2012 at 05:47 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #5 · OT - Touch of reality


My daughter has a "lazy eye" ... sometimes it is straight, other times not ... so we retouch for her sometimes. If her eye was permanently "not straight" then I would be more inclined to NOT straighten it. Same goes for other temporal things like acne or a "slight" weight change, or a bad hair color.

For those things that are more permanent (like scarring), I'm feel that miminizing their distractiveness can be appropriate, but totally removing them then becomes a false rendering.

In reality, we learn to "look past" such "defects" as we learn to focus more on the person than the defect. They are still there, but we just don't focus on them. Likewise, minimizing (but not removing) 'defects' in an image emulates the "they are there, but we have more important things to look at".

That's my basic philosophy on the matter, but there will still be people who want it totally different from reality. It's their pic, they can have it their way, but I'm not a big fan of turning my grandmother into a barbie doll via PS. Whether a person uses makeup (a different daughter with rosacea), or a "push-up", or use of angles & lighting, SF technique, or PS ... it's all fair game as to how to render them ... use it judiciously.


My .02



Feb 28, 2012 at 06:12 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #6 · OT - Touch of reality


RustyBug wrote:
I'm not a big fan of turning my grandmother into a barbie doll via PS.


Well put. I agree.



Feb 28, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #7 · OT - Touch of reality


dmacmillan wrote:

Well put. I agree.


But, not having a 'touch-up' at all is NOT acceptable for my mother-in-law, either.

Touching-up is a sure cure for son-in-law's other missteps.



Feb 28, 2012 at 07:00 PM
 

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AuntiPode
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p.1 #8 · OT - Touch of reality


What if granny demands the Barbie Doll look? The questions are usually, for whom is the image intended, and what do they want? Photographers get into trouble when they attempt to impose their preference on someone else. The photographer may prefer journalistic realism but the subject may *hate* brutal reality. We go off the rails if we try, artistically or intellectually, to bully the recipient into accepting our preference or attack the legitimacy of theirs. At the least, it's not a successful formula for a budding portrait photographer. Of course, the real trouble starts when granny lies and says she doesn't want retouching....


Feb 28, 2012 at 07:14 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #9 · OT - Touch of reality


AuntiPode wrote:
What if granny demands the Barbie Doll look?

Good point. I'm not sure Kent or I are trying to impose our preferences on anyone.

Should we make a distinction between photographs we take for our pleasure and photographs we take as professional portrait photographers? When I was a professional, the customer called the shots. I was willing to give them pretty much what they wanted as long as it wasn't illegal. If they wanted to look like one of the creatures in "Avatar" then I'd do my best to accomodate them.

One of the luxuries of being an amateur is that I only have to please myself. Excessive Photoshopping just doesn't come up because I don't moonlight and my friends and family who I photograph tend to be comfortable enough in their own skin that I don't have to try to make Minnie Pearl look like Britney Spears.



Feb 28, 2012 at 07:48 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #10 · OT - Touch of reality


dmacmillan wrote:
try to make Minnie Pearl look like Britney Spears.



Now, THAT would be defamation of CHARACTER.

Minnie is just fine the way she is.



Feb 28, 2012 at 08:01 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #11 · OT - Touch of reality


dmacmillan wrote:
Good point. I'm not sure Kent or I are trying to impose our preferences on anyone.


Not at all. I was referring to the article posted, not to you or Kent or anyone else who posts here. Lately there have been a number of people berating the media for photoshopping models and media stars. They have perhaps a point about promoting anorexia, but their general tone can be excessive and, I suspect, it sometimes gives me problems.

I know people who've been influence by the media complaints into feeling guilty about wanting their images retouched. I have a close relative who's feeling very bad about the ravishes of time on her face. She's also been influenced by the anti-photoshop voices. The only way I can make an image she likes is to lie about how much I photoshop it. It's annoying. I've also made images for a musical group that wants well photoshopped work to help them compete in a youth oriented market. At there explicit request, I've removed and greatly reduced the normal lines of aging from their faces. However, if I show those photos to my photographer friends, they always start to lecture me I shouldn't remove lines and wrinkles from males faces. They wrongly *assume* the subject don't specifically request it. Again, annoying.

The sticky thing is the photographer/subject expectation difference. Is it fair for me to leave in lines and wrinkles because *I* like them when the subject hates them? I may make images for my expression, but if they offend the subject, that's a moral dilemma.



Feb 28, 2012 at 10:22 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #12 · OT - Touch of reality


AuntiPode wrote:
Not at all. I was referring to the article posted, not to you or Kent or anyone else who posts here.

Gotcha. Very interesting observations. It's funny how in an attempt to keep women and men from feeling bad about not being perfect, they can make them feel bad about getting a little reasonable help.

Perhaps you can explain you're just trying to make them appear as their friends see them, not how a dermatologist sees them.

I'm still searching for a "beer goggles" PS action.

Couldn't help but get tickled at your "ravishes of time". I think you meant "ravages of time". Look up some of the meanings of "ravish" and see if you don't agree. ;-)



Feb 28, 2012 at 11:19 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #13 · OT - Touch of reality


I dunno ... I kinda like the thought of a lifetime of "ravishes" ... (definition #3) 3.Fill (someone) with intense delight; enrapture ... to provide character lines.


Feb 28, 2012 at 11:48 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #14 · OT - Touch of reality


Ravished as in plundered or robbed - see definition two:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ravish

Of course, my subconscious does shameless wordplay, too....



Feb 29, 2012 at 01:02 AM





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