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Archive 2012 · I think I've found out what pop is.
  
 
silvawispa
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p.1 #1 · I think I've found out what pop is.


Either I'm tired or this latest of mine has a 'pop' to it, a 3Dness that I've only encountered rarely.
It could be tiredness though....



Edited on Mar 01, 2012 at 11:09 AM · View previous versions



Mar 01, 2012 at 01:58 AM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #2 · I think I've found out what pop is.


The lighting and B & W treatment are excellent pop. The ESB spike growing out of his shoulder does give it a sort of "alien walks among us" look.


Mar 01, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Kaden K.
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p.1 #3 · I think I've found out what pop is.


Nice.


Mar 01, 2012 at 03:10 AM
silvawispa
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p.1 #4 · I think I've found out what pop is.


It's funny Aunti, as I posted it way early /last night this morning I noticed that and, briefly' thought about changing it there and then.
I'll deal with it now. Maybe that wisp of cloud from his cheek too.



Mar 01, 2012 at 11:09 AM
Kenneth Farver
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p.1 #5 · I think I've found out what pop is.


I need to learn lighting like this, thanks for giving me something to strive for.


Mar 01, 2012 at 11:23 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #6 · I think I've found out what pop is.


"Pop", "Hard, "Soft" are all words used to describe psychological /emotional reactions to contrast created by lighting gradients.

If you want to become proficient with lighting you need to get beyond the catchphrases and a understand the cause and effect of light, the surfaces it hits, the patterns it creates and how the brain reacts to them.

Start with understanding why we think we see 3D in a photo and what "normal" looks like. The baseline of "normal" is how we see objects modeled by light in nature. That varies with the angle sun. Here's my homage to the 2009 Winter solstice at high noon...







Knowing where the sun at noon would be in the sky from observation I aligned my creation facing south and tilted up the the sky so it would be lit with a "butterfly" pattern. The lighting at 10 AM and 2PM came more from the side and a lower 45 vertical angle.












What winds up happening on faces in natural light is that its dominant downward "key" light component puts highlights the upper surfaces of 3D objects. At 10AM in sunlight a ball facing south with the sun at 45 to right and 45 vertically would look like this:












You've seen an touched objects like that in person so upon seeing those illustrations your brain matches the contrast pattern where the highlights and shadows are placed and interprets the highlighted objects as being raised and the shaded areas lower based on those memories.

Now consider this image....





Flipping the image 180 changes the direction of the lighting and the 3D shape clues. You brain still recognizes the shape is a sphere from the pattern of highlights / shadows, but it doesn't seem as natural. Why? The light isn't coming from the more natural downward direction. That doesn't make it bad lighting or good lighting, just unnatural because it doesn't match what you see in nature or indoor lighting based on its direction most of the time.

As a photographer you can control how people will react to faces and objects by varying the key light angle. If as with the snow heads you keep it about 45 above the eye line and either centered on the nose, or 45 to the side of the nose the face will wind up modeled in a way it's 3D shape will be recognized immediately as the brain as being "normal".

That's what is happening in the example you posted. Look at the catchlights in the eyes at 10 o'clock. That's an indication the key light was 45 to the side and 45 higher than the point between the eyes a classic textbook "short" lighting pattern. Why did that pattern, and butterfly become classic textbook patterns? Because our brains, seeing those patterns associate them with the natural 3D shape of human faces.

Key light position controls modeling, the illusion of 3D shape via highlight placement. Fill intensity and placement control shadow tone and than in turn influences how we interpret the environment the face or object is in and the time of day. For example compare the original with the same photo with lighter shadow on the subject...







Seeing the two side by side which appears more "normal"? Both. The one on the left is closer to how you'd normally see him during the day, the one on the left how you'd see him at night under a street light. Same lighting pattern but the difference in fill and shadow tone changes the emotional reaction. The darker shadows and lack of detail in the original evoke a more sinister reaction that the more normal lighting ratio on the left.

Now look and react to these examples....











The biggest difference between them is the specularity in the highlights. That's mostly a function of the skin texture. Oily skin, either naturally or due to make-up or lotions, will create a mirror-like (i.e. specular) reflection off the high points of the face similar to the sharply defined catchlights in the eyes. Specular reflections are mirror image of the light source.

In the boy / girl comparison I used my small speedlight diffuser for the boy then switched to my larger studio SB for the girl. The shadow clues on her face are lighter in tone than the boys, but the highlights are more specular. He washed his face before the photo, she wearing make-up didn't. The lighting in her shot could be said to "pop" more because there is more contrast in the highlights, but that's not particularly flattering on a conventional portrait like that.

The second was a "production" line head shot, one of 300 or so I took for a church directory by grabbing people as they arrived and shooting a single shot with my pair of speed lights. I spotted the glare on the skin likely due to skin lotion but couldn't prevent it when shooting. So in PP toned down the "hot" spots with cloning in darken mode. With both the girl and the woman the glare was the result of things they put on their skin not the skin itself. Normal skin doesn't cause specular hot spots, which is why hot spots in conventional portraits don't seem "normal". To the degree the lighting seems harsher on the darker skin its because the dark skin makes the highlights contrast more than on lighter tone skin. So more contrast is normal on darker complexions, but when the highlights get too specular the angle and pattern is normal but the glare isn't flattering. The clues are natural but the character of the source / skin combination isn't how we normally expect to see skin of any color. The solution to that problem? As the first boy / girl example shows increasing modifier size doesn't always work. The better solution is a freshly washed oil free face.

The take-away here is that everything we see in a photo gets compared to some mental impression of "normal". A photo taken with built in camera flash doesn't look normal. Why? Because the small source level with the lens causes the light to hit an unnaturally low angle creating small hot spots in the "wrong" places on the face, lower than seen in natural light. There are also no natural 45 downward shadow clues. The contrast pattern created by the light doesn't match the normal baseline for natural light we see faces in most of the time. Our reaction? "Gee that looks fake...." But take that same light source and move it 45 above the eye line and it will look more natural even when there are specular refections. Why? The specular reflections while harsh are in the same places they would be in natural lighting at a downward 45 angle.















Mar 01, 2012 at 01:20 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #7 · I think I've found out what pop is.


For this image, I'd say the pop is largely a function of sharpness, good DOF and particularly the excellent snappy gray scale.


Mar 01, 2012 at 08:07 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #8 · I think I've found out what pop is.


AuntiPode wrote:
For this image, I'd say the pop is largely a function of sharpness, good DOF and particularly the excellent snappy gray scale.

Even without a mid-range bump? ;-)

I agree and would include excellent lighting, including a lighting ratio appropriate to the mood and subject.

To the OP, I do have a few nits. His shirt is poofing out some and looks a little unkempt. Notice his left hand. It is a similar size and brightness compared to his face and therefore competes with it. I think it would be better toned down. Finally, I wish his posture was a little straighter. All in all though, it's a powerful photo and I certainly see the "pop" as well.



Mar 01, 2012 at 08:40 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #9 · I think I've found out what pop is.


What?! You're saying Paul didn't bump the mid-tones? I'm shocked! Shocked and appalled!


Mar 01, 2012 at 08:43 PM
 

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silvawispa
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p.1 #10 · I think I've found out what pop is.


The lighting I used for this shot was a single 15" dish, lower edge level with the hat brim, quite close in (edited out of the top left of the shot actually ) and feathered to get the right balance between subject and background. It's a typical one-light, no reflector set-up that I use a lot.

@cgardner
That's a lot of information you have at your disposal. Thanks for sharing it with us.
A tip you may find useful for dealing with dark skin with harsh specular highlights is to use a gel on your light, a warmer highlight will lower the contrast of the highlights and help them blend more naturally.
The edit you showed here has a certain element of 'lightly sanded' that is quite unappealing.





I agree and would include excellent lighting, including a lighting ratio appropriate to the mood and subject.

To the OP, I do have a few nits. His shirt is poofing out some and looks a little unkempt. Notice his left hand. It is a similar size and brightness compared to his face and therefore competes with it. I think it would be better toned down. Finally, I wish his posture was a little straighter. All in all though, it's a powerful photo and I certainly see the "pop" as well.


Thank you, I like to think my lighting is somewhat better than it once was!

What you called nits, we called character. I suspect he may be a competent fighter of some sort who has just 'ruffled' someone. Maybe he's a gumshoe or something like that. This guy is an actor and bodybuilder who is 10 years younger than he looks here. The project was all about character rather than a nice portrayal of him.

Same guy, different photographer!



Mar 01, 2012 at 10:46 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #11 · I think I've found out what pop is.


No way, dude!

I called them nits because I felt they were insignificant or a matter of preference. I noticed the pugilistic stance and should have mentioned it, since it negates a lot of what I mentioned.

Excellent job. Congrats.



Mar 01, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Jo Dilbeck
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p.1 #12 · I think I've found out what pop is.


You know, you really should warn the women in the audience before you post something like the last one.............I may never be able to look at my husband the same way again

Seriously, now what where we talking about? Oh yea, pop, and yes, I do really like your original post, but agree that the left hand might be better if darkened just a bit so as not to complete with the face.

Jo



Mar 02, 2012 at 12:49 AM
silvawispa
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p.1 #13 · I think I've found out what pop is.


Sorry Jo. Shall I message you if I post the NSFW work shoot we did a while ago?




Mar 03, 2012 at 11:17 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #14 · I think I've found out what pop is.


dmacmillan wrote:
Notice his left hand. It is a similar size and brightness compared to his face and therefore competes with it. I think it would be better toned down.


+1 @ where are you "drawing the eye" / "What's the point". If he were a boxer, and you wanted to highlight the power in his punch, or if he had a fist full of money and you wanted to draw attention to his 'power' ... then the point @ drawing / balancing the face & hand might shift more toward the hand. Personally, I like the hand, but I don't have any visual clues as to why I'm being drawn there ... just that I am (per Dmac's scale and tone) ... which leaves me a bit @ portrait. If that's the "point" then then hand could probably be toned down a bit, so as not to compete / pull away from the face.

Again, I like the hand ... just not able to figure out what it's significance / relative strength is for. I'm guessing you have a reason for drawing us to the hand (hard hitting, take no bull personality) as you have, and have toned, posed, lit it accordingly to do so. I get the feeling that he is staring your down, while rubbing his thumb and forefinger as an gesture of dominance / control ... and the other hand being clinched is waiting in the background if he needs to use it.

The frumpy shirt ... I'm diggin' it. Tells me that this guy isn't afraid to get a little 'roughed up", more likely, isn't afraid to "rough you up" ... despite his nice attire. I think the attention to details are pulling this together very well to create a "sense" of who he is. My biggest nit would be what looks like a blown "hotspot" under his eye.

Short version ... I'm diggin' it.




Mar 03, 2012 at 03:55 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #15 · I think I've found out what pop is.


RustyBug wrote:
Short version ... I'm diggin' it.


Kent had a different take on the photo than me and did a great job expressing it. His comments, along with Paul's (the OP), make me realize that I viewed the photo too much from the perspective of a traditional portrait and not enough from the perspective of an editorial portrait, which was its intent.

I appreciate both for helping me view the photo in a different light (no pun intended). I agree with them and now feel my nits were not relevent.

Again, congrats to Paul for a nifty photo!



Mar 03, 2012 at 04:25 PM
silvawispa
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p.1 #16 · I think I've found out what pop is.


@ Kenneth, I'm happy to help, this is a simple one light set up, you can do it with the minimum of a flash and a cord.

@Dmac, Thanks. I'll often forget to post the theme, idea or title just to see what people make of it.

@Rusty, Thanks, glad you like it
It's a tricky balance between the hand and the face for sure.

Two things are at play that keep me from wanting to darken the hand further.

First, I want some prominence to it. It's very much a part of the character. I wouldn't want any doubt that those are powerful hands and that you are being sized up, and found lacking!

Secondly, darkening the hand will start to mess with the overall depth of the image. That would not be a good thing for me!

That said, with the consensus saying it's too bright, I'm going to go and try it and see if I can be convinced



Mar 03, 2012 at 04:31 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #17 · I think I've found out what pop is.


silvawispa wrote:
the consensus saying it's too bright


Greatness often times stands out from the convention of the masses ... following the "consensus" sometimes only leads you toward mediocrity.



Mar 03, 2012 at 06:52 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #18 · I think I've found out what pop is.


People react differently to the same image, unless perhaps it's very deeply archetypal. My reaction to the image was a character study of a touch cookie with a dapper side, who's posture and sagging belly suggested a pugnacious fellow a little past his prime. The second image showed me how wrong I was. We interpret images with whatever expectations and perceptual baggage we bring to the game, often based upon small visual clues that can be interpreted in very different ways.


Mar 03, 2012 at 07:25 PM





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