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Archive 2012 · Stumped on how to improve!!!
  
 
DavidVRJ
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p.1 #1 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


Hi, I have been doing headshots for less than 2 weeks now and every shoot I do, I get better. I sit and critique my favorite photos of every shoot I do and think about what I like and don't like about each photo and why. I feel this has helped me improve my technique a lot. Anyway, here's a shot I took a few hours ago. I edited it slightly in photoshop, and now all the little things I've nitpicked are gone and I'm left with what I feel is a near perfect headshot. In terms of improving my headshots in the future, what would you change about this photo and why? Also, what would you change about this photo in particular? thanks!






Aug 24, 2012 at 06:29 AM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #2 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


A few things come to mind. I'd suggest evening her skin by bumping the hue of the red/magenta areas of her face. In PS you can use color selection to select the areas with the color cast and apply a hue/sat layer and increase the hue a little until those areas color blend into the rest of her face. I'd drop the color saturation of the white of her eye and slightly lighten to reduce the color cast. I'd also remove the color cast from the background and retouch her lips. The lighting is a little low and flat, as witnessed by the poor separation of the bottom of her nose from her upper lip. The pose is rather centered and static, but perhaps you've a reason for it.







Aug 24, 2012 at 09:21 AM
Travis Rhoads
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p.1 #3 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


to add to the great re-touching Karen mentioned, for me an head shot is just that, a head. To me, cropping the top of her head to show the tops of her shoulders and collar bones doesn't really work.


Aug 24, 2012 at 11:22 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #4 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


David,

Welcome to FM and the PC Forum.

http://www.headshots101.com/basic-Rules-for-posing.html

Here's a link that you might find interesting. I'm sure there are a zillion others if you just Google "headshot".

The thing that strikes me is the landscape orientation. I don't recall many headshots in landscape ... more vertical or square ... but I haven't been around the modeling industry since the 1980's, so maybe they are asking for the shoulders/collar bone now.

In the link above, they make reference to the different types/needs of headshots. Given the bare model, I'm assuming this is for models to show their facial/bone structure to agency personnel.

I understand the minimalist perspective that it is not meant to be a "pretty pic" all dolled up with PP & Makeup ... but the flat lighting that Karen mentions makes it difficult to see any facial modeling in her bone structure, size/shape of nose, etc.. If I'm understanding your purpose correctly ... this is all about showing a "non-artistic" technical representation of the bare form a model has to offer a potential agency or potential client.

That being said, your lighting needs to make it easier (albeit not dramatic) for them to detect the models structure and seems to need different lighting setup. Also, the shallow DOF is useful for portraiture when you are trying to draw attention away from flaws, but again for presenting technical information @ subject, the additional DOF could make it easier to see the quality of her skin, etc.

IIUC, this is a technical headshot, rather than an artistic, commercial, business or portrait one.

Here's a B&W of it for consideration. In the B&W, it is easier to see the areas of focus that reveal her skin quality vs. those that are OOF and hide it. If I'm reviewing her comp card with this shot ... I'm kinda ticked that I can't see the rest of her skin, but only this very small central area. Again, I haven't work around models for many years and things may be very different now. To that point, who is it that you are producing these for, i.e. end use @ agency, etc.. I would be asking them what their needs and preferences are regarding your work. We are a very helpful group in spirit ... but this type of shot is VERY SPECIFIC to its industry usage.

Having, eye, nose & lips in focus is important, but with the shallow DOF, they seem to be "sticking out" a bit as the oof areas recede & hide some of the very detail that is the purpose of such a headshot. Her hairline and her jawline are both oof ... to me, this is NOT want an agency wants to see in a model's headshot. Again, I could be way off base here if you have a specific basis for the shallow DOF ... but I'd suggest you double check to make sure that you aren't trying to apply portrait techniques to technical headshots.

You also seem to have issues with your color. It is easy to see the color cast falloff @ magenta on your background. But, it is also showing up in her sclera. If you compare the color on each side of her pupil, you'll notice that the outside vs. inside has different color cast as well (compare 2 vs. 4 in particular). I'm not sure where/why that cast is occurring (ambient contamination maybe), but it is there nonetheless. You may be able to "split the difference" @ color balance, but better to resolve it in your lighting ... it shows up readily in your background edges as well, so you can use that as somewhat of an indicator as well.

I noticed that you shot @ f3.5 and your histo looks pretty good. My question would be is your light output maxed out that you needed to shoot 3.5, or did you reduce your light power to allow 3.5? Lighting can have color shift @ reduced power. Also, as your light "falls off" in intensity ... it will also reduce it's particular color influence relative to other lighting. I'd look at raising my lighting power and stopping down if you have that option (or reducing ambient lighting influence). Without being there it's kinda tough to diagnose the color cast and approach for eliminating, so I'm guessing here ... but, for professional head shots, you'll want to get that issue figured out.

I don't mean to be a "buzzkill" to your growth and improvement. Rather, I applaud your growth in such a short time ... just want to offer up something for consideration, lest you head down a path that goes against what you are trying to achieve. Again ... if I've missed the mark at your purpose, apologies for that ... but do verify with your intended purpose that which is important / required.

My .02 ... which may or may not be worth .02.

GL & HTH














Aug 24, 2012 at 12:56 PM
DavidVRJ
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p.1 #5 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


Wow guys, good stuff! I know exactly why there's a color cast in the backdrop and eyes, and it's because I put a blue color gel on the flash for a few pics to see what would happen.. bad idea. I just got the gels yesterday and I've found the best color correct gel combination using orange (my lights are 4ft 5000k fluorescents). As for the flat lighting, I'll work on that, and it's because I use "wrap around" lighting for some shots, with two big 4 foot banks in front and two thinner 4 foot banks in the back. I'll have to improve upon it, but in a little bit i'll post another photo from this shoot that doesn't have most of the things you guys critiqued, including a different lighting setup. I'm impressed though, all your input is very much appreciated and thank you!


Okay, so here's another picture, unedited, but critique it please! I made it the standard 8x10 headshot size so you're not as confused by the wideness of it; btw, I don't ask for money yet since it's still been under two weeks; i've been photographing as many people as possible to perfect my shots






Aug 24, 2012 at 08:20 PM
DavidVRJ
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p.1 #6 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


I usually shoot at 2.8, but I was experimenting with stopping down the f stop instead of dropping the iso, and I think i prefer it at 3.5. I'm still playing around with everything though. I'll take a few photos with a lower f-stop and see if having everything in focus is a good thing, though i'm afraid it'll take away from the "professionalism" of the shot. My main goal is usually to get the eye closest to the camera in focus, which is a struggle at 2.8 with a distance of 135mm (full frame). I shoot with a 5d mark II and a 70-200 2.8L IS lens


Aug 25, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Imagemaster
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p.1 #7 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


Why do you take portraits in horizontal mode, instead of vertical mode?


Aug 25, 2012 at 02:56 AM
DavidVRJ
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p.1 #8 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


My influence into taking headshots was Peter Hurley http://peterhurley.com/photography/actors-headshots/leading-ladies/ , and he shoots horizontally, so I've been inclined to do the same. Usually when I see headshots in vertical, I don't like them, but I have played around with it in the past and liked it so I might make it a part of my routine to improve on it and get a better perspective to see if I prefer it over horizontal or not


Aug 25, 2012 at 03:45 AM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #9 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


Every face is asymmetric, but the more symmetric the face, the more likely it will be judged attractive. To show someone at their best, it's important to examine the shape of their face and to adjust the poses accordingly. Until you can train your visualization, it may help to take a straight-on image and experiment with flipping half the face, for both halves. That may help you judge which half is their better side. Many people, especially models, already know which is their "best side". When you are a beginner, try asking them. Even after to learn to judge it well, it may prove wise to ask anyway.







Aug 25, 2012 at 04:33 AM
 

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DavidVRJ
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p.1 #10 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


That's interesting, and her best side is definitely the picture on the left, but I don't feel that's a very accurate comparison as her head was slightly tilted to one side, making it a comparatively large difference. Which changes could I make to improve the second picture I posted?


Aug 25, 2012 at 06:23 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #11 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


Kinda depends on what your intended usage / purpose of the second shot is ... as to how to suggest moving forward.

Modeling headshots (as espoused above) are different from casting headshots where you may want to show more engaging "personality". This second shot has more personality, yet the attire still appears rather bare, as if it were a modeling headshot. That confuses me as to the intended purpose.

So, my question is ... "What is your intended purpose (end use) for the headshots?" "What are your goals for learning to shoot headshots?"



Aug 25, 2012 at 06:57 PM
DavidVRJ
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p.1 #12 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


this is what I usually tell the women I shoot on facebook before coming in "Wear light, natural makeup. Powder doesn't come out good in these lights; the ponytail look is great so bring something to pull your hair back, and bring more than one change of clothing. Have all the clothing be things you love, But not too distracting that people lose focus of your face, like very bright colors or crazy patterns. Keep it simple. Bring at least two tops that you feel would give off the "nice girl" which is the look we're going for with the natural makeup, then some edgier clothing for the "bad girl"look with a bit more makeup. The more clothing, the better especially if you're indecisive. Then we just choose from there! "

She didn't follow any of that, so she's a bad example since she wasn't home that entire day, so she couldn't bring a change of clothing or makeup. I just went with it and shot her with what she was wearing. She did have light makeup on, at least, and I felt it she overall had a "Lara Croft" look to her, so we just played on that. I have them bring many different things and then we go from there.

a better example of what I go for in terms of variation is one of my first shoots,



and






but I do things a lot differently than then, so try not to critique the composition of those lol.

I have a new backdrop since yesterday, a white plexiglass, and i played around with it and improved everything much more than what you see in this picture, but my white background now looks more like this (he is a friend who just stopped by to say hi yesterday)




, but now I perfectly calibrated my two flashes with gels and will be using them to light the plexiglass I have hanging curved on a backdrop mount. I also have a black backdrop too, i'll be playing with this week.

My goal with learning headshots is to become a big headshot photographer in Miami, so I can do this for a living along with club/event photography. I'm turning 21 tomorrow, so I feel I have more than enough time to get to that point, especially with my fast progress and willingness to study photography day and night



Aug 25, 2012 at 10:15 PM
DavidVRJ
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p.1 #13 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


I know it needs a bit of editing but here's a photo straight from the camera; I think I've got it! Let me know if you see it needs any color correcting or anything, because I can't see it





I did three things differently: I used a plexiglass backdrop, color corrected the flash with 3 gels, and hung a light fixture above her head, as seen here





This brought out her nose more, and added contrast between the face and neck not to mention the light added to her hair

One thing I might do is add another light fixture, since the back shoulder is darker when there is no back light on that side



Aug 29, 2012 at 07:39 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #14 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


Looking at your setup shot is very telling.

If you study (and think @) your backdrop it will give you a clue to a couple of things.

First of all ... we can readily see that you are using mixed lighting in the form of fluorescent and strobe.

While the model is being illuminated by entirely fluorescent (so it appears) your background is not. In the headshot image, the background has a mostly even white @ 255,255,255 except in the corners. One might think from that ... that you've got your WB set well. But, if you look at your setup shot, you can readily see that the area of your backdrop that is being blasted by the strobe is certainly a different color than the edges of your backdrop.

The edges of your back drop are being illuminated by the fluorescent lighting and it is showing the color variance from the strobe. Now, since your models is being illuminated by the fluourescent (i.e. not the strobe) ... even though your background is mostly a nice 255,255,255 white ... that doesn't mean that your color is correct @ your model.

If you look at her collar, it appears to be very close to neutral @ 249,249,247 which is just a touch light on blue (or strong on yellow), but too close to nitpick over. However, if we look further at her shirt's stripes, we see 47,42,38 and 53,44,40 in the black stripes which is showing nowhere close to neutral.

This tells me that the lighting on the model is not neutral (nor corrected to neutral) despite having a 255,255,255 background. I think that the headshot of Sandy is certainly your best effort so far. I strongly recommend that you get one of the color checker or white balance products (gray card @ minimum) for determining your WB @ the model's location, particularly since you have chosen to use fluorescent as your lighting (and are mixing it with strobe).

I suspect that while the difference seems to be "narrowing" via your gel of the strobe ... you still are shooting with mixed lighting and can't use the 255,255,255 as indication of correct WB.

That being said ... I think the posing, lighting (non-color issue), expression and composition of Sandy are your best effort to date (as posted).

As to the color issue ... take a shot from your setup as shown above ... but turn off the background strobe (test shot only). From that you'll be illuminating the background with only the fluorescent lighting. You should then be able to use that information @ "what color" your lighting is, so you know "what color" you are illuminating your subject with. Of course, using a color checker or gray card, etc. is ideal ... but if you don't have one handy ... just kill your strobe and see how much correction your BG would need if shot with fluorescent only.

Skin tones are tough enough to get right on any given day ... but shooting them in fluorescent lighting adds to the challenge. Your progression here is admirable and some will think I'm in technical nitpick land ... but this is what is causing the grief you've been struggling with, so I hope you understand the effort to help you resolve your approach to figuring it out.

Again, strides in improvement ... nice job, but mixed lighting is always a tough gig. Suggestion ... as an exercise in creativity, use a colored gel (non-corrective) to illuminate your background to a color other than white. THEN, you will NOT be able to consider your BG relative to your subject WB determination. From that, it might help you mentally separate your subject lighting from your background lighting.





Aug 29, 2012 at 01:25 PM
DavidVRJ
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p.1 #15 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


Thank you! I spent a few hours saturday figuring out the right color gel combination, and I got as close as I could get. I'm getting a whibal card today and will be using it to further color balance my photos, and I'm planning on buying some daylight fluorescent bulbs to see if they are the same color temperature as the flash; still, I'm sure my bulbs right now give better color rendering since they're high color rendering T8 bulbs, so I might not keep the daylight bulbs even if they go with the flash. Thank you for your kind words! I'm really passionate about this, as you can tell. It feels great seeing that my efforts are yielding greater results every shoot

Here's one I took without flash, unedited





compare the colors in her teeth in that picture and in this one, and on average, the teeth have about the same color cast, with a little less blue than green and red.





also for comparison is a recent unedited photo by peter hurley. the backdrop has a little more blue than the rest even though it's supposed to be gray



. Also, his eyes have similar color info as the eyes in my recent photos



Aug 29, 2012 at 05:53 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #16 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


Did you set-up your camera for a custom white balance for your fluorescent lighting set-up? Color balance with fluorescents can be tricky. Here's a version of the last posted with +4 green added to a PS color balance layer mid-tones and highlights:







Aug 29, 2012 at 07:25 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #17 · Stumped on how to improve!!!


Sounds like you've got your head in the game ... will see how it goes once you get your reference tools.

This is a little oversharpened (working form my laptop), but take a look at the tones in the hair & pupils to see if you can detect a diff.

I don't shoot people, but there is a subjectivity factor involved @ how warm/cool you want to tone your style. I think we are getting very close to the arena of subjective vs. correct ... and once you get your whibal in the game ... you should be able to dial things fairly well ... at least to assessing your preference @ WB/tone in your BG vs. your subject. You may have to make some compromises or learn to selectively tweak highlight, midtones, shadows etc. along with masking/painting etc. if you are still using mixed lighting & fluorescent that are not "full spectrum".

From here, you might want to post over in the lighting forum ... where some lighting guru's can further assist your refinement. I think you're "in the ballpark" now and on your way toward your goals (which seem to be different than I first assumed).

How exacting you want / need to get with your color balance ... that's a matter of personal preference. For some, it is "close enough for government work" or "horseshoes, hand grenades". For others, its "nuclear war" and for others yet, it's down to a gnat's behind. Personally, I feel that improper color balance is the "thief of clarity". For some, they'll crank on the clarity slider ... personally, I prefer to "work through" color cast issues first to gain max clarity before doing much else when confronted with mixed lighting. Others, will just click balance ... to each his own.

Kudo's @ the progression.








Aug 29, 2012 at 08:11 PM





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