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Archive 2012 · How do i make this better?
  
 
Javier Crespin
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p.1 #1 · How do i make this better?


I have been working on producing sharp well exposed photos. Now I need to learn better editing techniques. Advice? Thanks in advance..

Feb 29, 2012 at 04:01 AM
alatoo60
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p.1 #2 · How do i make this better?


IMO, now you need to learn better composing skills. In this shot, for example, tree branch appear to grow from your subject's head. Of course you can fix it in pp, but you could entirely avoid this problem by carefuly composing shot before pressing the shutter.


Feb 29, 2012 at 05:41 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #3 · How do i make this better?


Sharp photos aren't the most interesting or effect ones in delivering the desired message.

Indoor portraits are taken on plain background for a simple reason. Eliminating the background distractions completely gives the viewer nothing to look at except the face providing the clothing isn't distracting. So the basic formula for effective portraits is to pick a background where the clothing will blend into it but the face(s) will contrast strongly. The faces are the stars of the show.

Outdoors you need to ask how important is the context of the background and how much of it needs to shown to convey that context. Here the boy is holding a basket ball and white line is seen on the ground telling us he's apparently shooting hoops with mom that happens a lot when dad is always behind the camera

How important is the background to that shot? Not very since it's mostly just a conventional portrait you happened to take outdoors. If the context of the BB court was important it would have been better to put the hoop in the background not a tree. But for this shot the fewer distractions in the background the better..







The idea of putting the backs to the sun and filling with flash was a good one, but by allowing the sun to hit the heads and faces you create distracting highlights and harsher looking lighting. Keeping the sun entirely off the front and sides of the head and raising your flash on a bracket over the heads for natural downward modeling will produce results more similar to this one where I cloned out the bright distracting oddly placed highlights like the one across mom's chest. I also added stronger catchlights to the eyes...







Overall by blurring and darkening the background and less important parts of the bodies and lightening the faces the net effect is that the faces, which are the star of the show, contrast more and are in the "spotlight" of the overall tonal gradient in the photo.

When shooting that process starts by finding uniformly darker or lighter less distracting plain backgrounds like a pine tree to put the subjects in front of if the background context isn't important to the message. Then light the face by first raising to up into the skylight, standing on something to get up above the upturned face and adding flash from the same downward angle as the skylight modeling the face. A single flash works quite well in that type of outdoor lighting but you need to get it up above the heads with a bracket or stand.



Feb 29, 2012 at 03:38 PM
KaaX
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p.1 #4 · How do i make this better?


Two more quick things.

The first is skin color. The photo is oversaturated and that's a bad idea for portraits. Specifically, I doubt that the kid's cheeks and face are THAT beet-magenta in real life. And if by any chance they are, it would be good to downplay that. I don't know what kind of post-processing you have available to you, but the kid's skin needs seriously less magenta.

The second is sharpening. As a rule of thumb, don't sharpen skin (but do sharpen the eyes). The woman's forehead is pretty bad in that respect.

There are whole books on how to make skin look good in photographs, but less saturation, less magenta, and less sharpening should start you on the right path :-)



Feb 29, 2012 at 09:27 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #5 · How do i make this better?


Good point about the color and sharpening. Here the red on the boy's face appears to be coming from the sunlight reflection off something red just out of frame to the left of the boy someone in a red jersey? because it's not as heavy on the mother further way. But it may just be from running around mom must play center

It looks very similar to the red color casts on faces typically seen in senior photos when the photographer sends them into an alley to hold up a brick wall en route to the train tracks out of town....

When doing my edits I used Hue/Saturation to reduce reds and had to use different amounts on separate layers with masking for the boy and mother because it was heavier on him. I also used the blur tool on the faces to even out the JPG artifacts after I filled in the "rouge" highlights with cloning.



Feb 29, 2012 at 09:46 PM
KaaX
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p.1 #6 · How do i make this better?


cgardner wrote:
Here the red on the boy's face appears to be coming from the sunlight reflection off something red just out of frame to the left of the boy someone in a red jersey? because it's not as heavy on the mother further way. But it may just be from running around mom must play center


Actually, I think the kid is sunburned a bit. I don't think the red is a reflection because his left cheek is just as red as the right and there are no traces of color cast on the white letters on his t-shirt. If anything, I'd expect his face to be orange from the basketball, but magenta overpowers all :-)




Feb 29, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Javier Crespin
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p.1 #7 · How do i make this better?


Thanks so much guys. I shot this at f7 which should have been lower, that would have been helpful. I will definitely work on my composition, for me the hardest part of photography. He was red from playing basketball obviously, so I will attempt to reduce magenta on a layer for him ,although Im not sure exactly how but Ill figure it out. Ill look into masking.

No sharpening skin, got it. Great advice. So I add a layer and erase the sharpening to reveal original?

Honestly I didnt saturate this photo. This lens provides vibrant color, but I will tone it down. Canon 18-135 IS

I have ordered a Tamron 28-75 2.8 that should help with backgrounds along with my new knowledge and just got my external flash that I will attach with a cable. Probably hand help so hopefully that will improve my results.


Thanks again. Really. You guys have helped me so much.

tip hat to :cgardner



Mar 02, 2012 at 01:31 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #8 · How do i make this better?


When shooting outdoors with flash lit foregrounds you face the technical limitation of shutter sync speed.

You can't sync the shutter beyond 1/250th. So to keep from blowing the sunlit parts of the subjects you must stop down the aperture until the clipping warning disappears in the sunlit parts. At ISO 100 that will require an aperture of around f/11. If your camera syncs at 1/200th around f/13. That in turn increases DOF and makes the background distractingly sharp.

There is a workaround to the problem: high speed FP sync (HSS). In HSS the flash pulses like a fluorescent lamp, so fast (about 40,000Hz) the camera sees the light as continuous. That allows shutter speeds shorter than 1/250th which in turn allows wider apertures:

1/250th @ f/11
1/500th @ f/8
1/1000th @ f/5.6
1/2000th @ f/4
1/4000th @ f/2.8

But there's a caveat. The effective range of a single 580ex flash drops to about 7' without modification. That's still within the useful range for the type of shot here, but just barely. But if you use a 580ex Master on a flash bracket as Fill and then overlap another 580ex off camera as "key" light the effective HHS range increases to around 10'.

Whenever you move a flash sideways rather than straight up as with a bracket it will create a sideways nose shadow. Unless you also keep a fill flash over the camera that nose shadow, and others on the face will be filled only by the skylight and wind up very dark, harsh looking and unflattering.

The solution I've used for 40 years now for candid shooting is to always have a flash on a bracket raised above the lens.. That produces very flattering results with just a single flash in the same lighting you had here with no blown highlights...







Whenever I add an off camera light on the side...





or behind the action...










the Master flash on the bracket provides the same naturally downward illumination on the front side of the faces and bodies. Adjusting the ETTL lighting ratio with the wheel on the back of the Master allows me to precisely control the tone of the shadows....



























If all you do is move one flash off axis you have no control over the shadows, which are what convey the mood and environment of the subjects in the flash lit foreground.

FYI - Canon just announced a new radio controlled 600EX flash unit.









Mar 02, 2012 at 02:46 PM
silvawispa
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p.1 #9 · How do i make this better?


Ooops, I just got carried away, sorry for the essay. Please would somebody read it and tell me it's not mindless drivel, Please!


Regarding the original question: Editing wise, you take it for what it is, a nice family snapshot taken in the circumstances that were there.
It's well enough exposed and in focus, it shows who was where and that they're happy.
Blurring the background here takes it out of context for me. You lose part of the story.
Family looking back in 30 years will thrill to recognising the background and being able to place where it was taken.

If you want your portraits to be better in general, that's a different thing. Then, instead of just point and shoot, you need to consider so many, many things, here's a few in order of how I think about it now. (I may have worried about it differently in the past, I'm sure it will change in the future...)

First off, how willing are my subjects to help me get a beautiful shot?
You see too many technically perfect shots of bored wives and girlfriends or people with the 'am I doing this right face'. Reassurance and humour are great tools here.
For me, keeping the mood overides technicals. Always.
If the above shot is as far as your subjects were happy to go for the shot, then you've done the best you can. The happy mood comes through and the story is told. Job done.

Secondly, can I get my enthusiastic and happy to help subjects someplace where the light is already excelent?
THIS is the key, the light.

A photographer I was helping out the other day was struggling in a room with bright sunlight streaming in through tall narrow windows. He just didn't understand that the combination of window light and a golden reflection from the floor was giving near perfect light. All his shots were just overblown or shadows.
The five words that blew his mind and took his photography to a new level were "it's all about the light." Suddenly he was edge lighting, backlighting, using fill, keeping the highlights out of the background. It was such a great epiphany to watch.

On to specifics: generally, one very bright, continuous point source of light, high overhead is about as unflattering as possible.
Think about what circumstances that happens in and particularly, what drops into shadow on a persons face in that circumstance.

Better situations are when the light is moderated, usually at a lower angle, light coming through a window, light bouncing off water, light from the setting sun cutting through a huge amount of atmosphere, these are good situations to look for and play with.

I have a 'found light' project where I take someone out night shooting in an urban area and only use the light sources I find on the street. It's a great way of learning a few things. How to get good focus in bad situations, how to hold a camera REALLY still and best of all how to see light. When you don't have enough, you treasure what you find!

You'll be working on other aspects of your photography whilst you are developing a feel for light,
(which can also be developed and helped by using one off-camera flash and spending the time going through David Hobby's Strobist Lighting 101. It's FREE and you won't get better lighting training anywhere at that price, his stuff is gold in terms of level and ease of understanding,)

Composition. This means that what you see in the viewfinder needs to look like what you want to see in print.
I've a useful mental tool that puts the viewfinder image on the page of a magazine, if it looks right I press the button.
Composition is a huge subject encompassing depth of field, brightness zones, colours, shapes, rule of thirds, dynamic diagonals, leading lines, blocked and open spaces and a hundred other ways of breaking down an image into manageable lumps.

A good place to start is to make sure the background is appropriate, (with no lines breaking peoples heads.) Apply the rule of thirds and see how your images come out.

Looking at really well made films is a great way of stuying composition, in particular how it interacts with colour and lighting. Look out for teal and orange, there are internet bonus points for working out why it's used so much...

NOW you can worry about your exposure and focus. (I had it backwards for the longest time, mind you, the first 30 years were probably the worst...)
What is the point in taking a dull photo even if it's perfectly exposed and in focus. Get the image right and then you have some REAL motivation for getting your focus and exposure correct! There's nothing worse than having a glorious shot ruined by the focus being out or the camera set wrong.
-----------------------------------------------------------
This is an awful lot to think about, and there are layers upon layers of it to learn.
Fortunately each layer gets easier with practice.

Whilst I was learning to hold all of these delicate eggs balanced on the top of a bendy pole, it wasn't unusual for my head to feel like it was imploding. Now it's mostly reflex or at most a few seconds thought. Leaving more brain power left to communicate with my subjects, see my top priority for the importance of that! ( I'm still learning to keep the geek speak inside my head however. Some people find it unnerving when I start muttering into my beard.)

I hope breaking things down like this is a help to you. I know it is to me, as I'll be teaching this in a basic workshop in a few weeks time. I hadn't previously seen that I have a set order for shooting. I've also realised that this method applies to everything I shoot, if in a somewhat abstract manner. Here's a breakdown:

#1) happy subject.
Landscapes, the right time of year, no litter, full lakes.
Wildlife, unthreatened and in good condition.
Street/voyeuristic journalism, subject completely unaware.
Portraits, getting on well with the subject. I guess there is a form of confrontational photography that disregards this, but you could abstract it to say 'subject doing what I want by being interesting'

#2) The Light. You take what you can get, and you try and get the best. If that means manipulating subjects or using flashes then you do what it takes.

On a found light mission, I found a steaming ventilation grill from a public aquarium. A taxi happened to stop nearby. I asked, and he was willing to put his lights on full and move his car a bit to be a part of the shot, the results are sublime

#3) Composition, WYSIWYG. Make the viewfinder look like a page in National Geographic, Vogue or Playboy or whatever your preferred style is. (you may need to use a little imagination if you are using flash with no modelling light. You may have to allow for what you are planning in post processing too, but I digress.)

#4)Focus and Exposure. A well focused and exposed photo is not neccesarily a good photo. A slightly mis-exposed or out of focus photo can be 'styled' and be greatly admired.

Of course, it's way more complex than that...

On the left hand side of my website are 'daily updates' where I post my latest work, or sometimes just some thoughts. I suspect this post will get mutated into an update in the near future. Possibly as reading material for my workshop attendees, so they know what they're letting themselves in for!
You are more than welcome to come and browse, you can even leave comments

I'd like discussion on these ideas, please chime in with your thoughts everyone.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
cgardner wrote:
If all you do is move one flash off axis you have no control over the shadows, which are what convey the mood and environment of the subjects in the flash lit foreground.


I must be taking this out of context, because that's exactly what I do for some of my better work!
I don't think you can be saying that one off axis flash is a bad thing and it must always have another flash working with it. I suspect Zach Arias would disagree with that too. (GIYF)
Come to think of it, I don't actually own a hotshoe flash that fits my camera.

The mantis photo is beautiful by the way.



Mar 02, 2012 at 09:41 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #10 · How do i make this better?


silvawispa wrote:
I must be taking this out of context, because that's exactly what I do for some of my better work!
I don't think you can be saying that one off axis flash is a bad thing and it must always have another flash working with it. I suspect Zach Arias would disagree with that too. (GIYF)
Come to think of it, I don't actually own a hotshoe flash that fits my camera.

The mantis photo is beautiful by the way.


I try to avoid subjective value judgements like "good' or "bad" with respect to lighting technique and discuss strategies in terms of the physics and cause and effect.

What I said was if you move a single flash off to the side with fill you will get unfilled shadows which will be dark, illuminated only by whatever ambient light (or spilled fill off ceiling indoors). Outdoors in backlight the shaded side of the face is - 3 stops below the sunny side which given the range of the camera winds up being quite dark on the shaded side. The off axis flash creates a highlight pattern over those dark shadows, but the shadows themselves remain very dark unless the overall ambient exposure is raised which will blow the highlights.

It's not that you can't use one flash off axis there are no rules but if you compare the results of the two approaches single flash off to the side with no fill vs. the same key light position will fill from over the camera I think you'd prefer both the appearance of the version with the fill, and the control it affords to make the shadows as light or dark as no fill as desired.

Have you ever done a direct comparison that way?



Mar 02, 2012 at 10:05 PM
 

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dmacmillan
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p.1 #11 · How do i make this better?


silvawispa wrote:
I must be taking this out of context, because that's exactly what I do for some of my better work!

Perhaps that's the very reason you do such interesting and good work.

Looks like you've figured out the lighting thing pretty well. You know what you want and how to get it.



Mar 02, 2012 at 11:51 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #12 · How do i make this better?


silvawispa wrote:
Please would somebody read it and tell me it's not mindless drivel, Please!


It's not mindless drivel.



Mar 03, 2012 at 01:12 AM
silvawispa
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p.1 #13 · How do i make this better?


cgardner wrote:
It's not that you can't use one flash off axis there are no rules but if you compare the results of the two approaches single flash off to the side with no fill vs. the same key light position will fill from over the camera I think you'd prefer both the appearance of the version with the fill, and the control it affords to make the shadows as light or dark as no fill as desired.

Have you ever done a direct comparison that way?


I very occasionally use on axis flash. Usually under the camera, usually for a very specific reason. Like mimicking footlights for a stage type shot.
I've never been happy with directly lighting people on axis, it's the equivalent of turning your back to the sun.
You only put your back to the sun when you're talking to someone you want to dominate. You force them to be uncomfortable.

What's my emotional response to that lighting? I'm looking at a victim. From the perspective of a victimiser.
Comfortable? Not for me.

I'll keep my light off-axis, thank you all the same.



Mar 03, 2012 at 01:27 AM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #14 · How do i make this better?


If you shoot on-axis from above with a broad enough source it can be acceptable and convenient for certain subjects and purposes, but it's not generally an interesting way to light. Back in the day I used it for group portraits, especially families with small children. Most educational and tutorial sources address lighting single subjects, but multiple subjects add a whole new set of constraints.


Mar 03, 2012 at 01:42 AM
silvawispa
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p.1 #15 · How do i make this better?


truth, that, but a group is much less likely to come across as victim, although they almost have to come across as subdominant, after all, I'm the director and focus.
For that, I use my strip lights that are effectively about 9ft wide, with a convenient gap in the middle. I shot 2 halves of a large orchestra like that once. *shudders*



Mar 03, 2012 at 01:47 AM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #16 · How do i make this better?


Here are some examples using a beauty dish, many of which are on axis from above:

http://www.modelmayhem.com/po.php?thread_id=372066



Mar 03, 2012 at 02:15 AM
silvawispa
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p.1 #17 · How do i make this better?


I stand by my point.
"What's my emotional response to that lighting? I'm looking at a victim. From the perspective of a victimiser.
Comfortable? Not for me."

Ok the strong poses and expresions are overturning the lighting and this juxtaposition is helping with the dramatic effect. But these shots aren't about character so much as they are about dreams and desire.
"This beauty is submitting to you, and willingly, and with attitude."
A simple dream, for simple men, or even complex men who just want things easy for a while. I'm not sure I can easily get comfortable with that.



Mar 03, 2012 at 02:24 AM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #18 · How do i make this better?


Sorry, in those images I don't see a victim. For some reason I don't see submission. I see simple and direct. Open. Vulnerable, perhaps, trusting. Guess I'm missing something.


Mar 03, 2012 at 02:29 AM
silvawispa
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p.1 #19 · How do i make this better?


Maybe I projected that then.
I certainly see them as a boys dream. Whether any woman, if outside our cultures influence, would wish to be seen in some of those poses, I'd debate. But not very well. Not being a woman.
Intersting debate, and I'm taking those thoughts with me to bed.



Mar 03, 2012 at 02:37 AM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #20 · How do i make this better?


Just remember, sometimes a certain look is part of the game.


Mar 03, 2012 at 03:02 AM
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