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Archive 2013 · Any observations on this portrait?
  
 
Ernie Aubert
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Any observations on this portrait?


She wanted her hands to be somewhat prominent, because she's a healer.







Jan 14, 2013 at 10:32 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Any observations on this portrait?


Looks fine to me. I think you did a good job here. I like the background, the pose and the light. It will be interesting to see what the experts say.


Jan 14, 2013 at 11:14 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Any observations on this portrait?


I think you've done a nice job of presenting her character, but it looks a bit overdone.

Reds look a little hot, so I tried pulling back on the saturation some. Pulled back on the yellows and blues individually as well, trying to get a balance. I'm assuming that her hair is white rather than blonde, but I don't know if the warmth was by intent or inadvertent.

While the brilliant blue background, bright yellow hair and striking red cape are colorful, they seem to compete for attention, and are stealing us away from her face/hands. I've tried to rebalance the elements somewhat @ sat levels to draw us more to her. Slight bit or CCW rotation and crop from the top & right.






Edited on Jan 16, 2013 at 01:10 AM · View previous versions



Jan 15, 2013 at 04:45 AM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Any observations on this portrait?


I think you can emphasize the hands even when using a more flattering hand pose. The rule of thumb in posing hands is to not have them flat to the camera; you want to see the edges of the hands. That will make both hands and fingers look slimmer.

The way the fingers are placed makes a busy pattern. Different posing would help. Even though her hands are important to her, you posed her in such a way that they are closer to the camera than the face. That makes them look disproportionate in size. The can still be important in the photo, yet they should be the second read, not the first.

I also find the wrist angle of her left hand extreme. It's best to avoid 90 degree angles and her wrist is nearly that.

There's a couple of things that draw the viewer away from the subject. Look at the lower left area. There's contrast between the black background, the red shawl and the chair. The highlight on the shawl and the chair draws the eye, creating a distraction.

Finally, the photo looks overlit. I think it's partially because of your choice of fill light. What did you use for your fill modifier? I looks like it is smaller than the modifier on your main. Common practice is to make the fill source larger than the main.



Jan 15, 2013 at 02:13 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Any observations on this portrait?


Many good points Doug ... particularly regarding the posing. The detail of your observation illustrates how much can be missed by those of us who are not portrait photographers. I've always maintained that good portrait photographers are highly under appreciated. The depth of study at hand placement (plane in front of face) and positioning (edge lighting to reveal character of hands) alone points out that good portraiture is not for the faint of heart.

It is much more than a "sit & smile" ... and is one that I have shied away from pending the amount of effort, practice, study it would require to be a "good" portrait photographer. That, and my people skills stink at getting them comfortable and well directed (which the OP seems to be better versed at than I).

Also, a nice point regarding the fill lighting size relative to the key lighting size. Like most anything in photography, it isn't a "hard & fast" rule ... but it does emulate the natural lighting of the sun acting as key and the sky acting as fill. Valuable nugget to remember ... I never equated the two before.



Jan 15, 2013 at 02:25 PM
newhaven
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Any observations on this portrait?


On the technical side, the red channel is clipped, creating some of the problems mentioned.


Jan 15, 2013 at 06:32 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Any observations on this portrait?


The lighting is harsh and direct. It's the sort best used to show rugged masculinity and generally very wrong for females, particularly those of a certain age.


Jan 15, 2013 at 07:49 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Any observations on this portrait?


This is why I come here, you guys have visual judgement far and away above mine. It always amazes me what you observe that totally escape me.


Jan 15, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Ernie Aubert
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Any observations on this portrait?


ben egbert wrote:
This is why I come here, you guys have visual judgement far and away above mine. It always amazes me what you observe that totally escape me.


Me too, Ben... to quote one of my favorite people, "I got that." There are factors mentioned that never occurred to me. This wasn't a paid thing; I was doing her a favor. I didn't "pose" her, she essentially posed herself. But I didn't notice the acute angle of her wrist and hand, or the fact that her hands were closer to the camera than her face, and I didn't know about not having the hands square to the camera's view... whew!

AuntiPode, I'm confused by your saying that the lighting is direct; harsh, I can kind of get, but direct? I used a softbox, and everything I've read says it should be as close to the subject as it can be without being in the frame, to be less like a point source. About it being harsh: Was it just too bright a level, or is there more to it than that?



Jan 15, 2013 at 09:30 PM
Eyeball
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Any observations on this portrait?


Ernie Aubert wrote:
About it being harsh: Was it just too bright a level, or is there more to it than that?


It looks harsh because you still have that softbox too high and it's too strong, at least relative to how you are adjusting the exposure in post.

See those bags under her eyes? See how dark her eyes are with the exception of that sharp catchlight from your fill? See how the angle that the softbox hits her forehead highlights the wrinkles there? Those things indicate that you're still too high.

If you're thinking "but if I put the softbox any lower, it will be in the frame", well yes, that's because you have the subject so low in the frame. Move her up in the frame and it will allow you to re-position the softbox and it will also result in a more pleasing composition for the portrait.

I would also suggest you try one with that softbox above/front instead of above/side. You will lose some dimensionality of the face and it will have a broadening effect compared to off-camera-axis but it can be more forgiving for a mature woman wrinkle-wise.

I guess I wasn't convincing the last time but seriously, kill that fill light or get it off the camera axis. The main should be providing the catchlights, not that fill light. As I said before, I am not sure you even need the fill light. A reflector or white sheet off the the right may be enough.

If it was me, I would lose the blue background, too, probably trying a black background. With her hair skin, and red dress you certainly aren't going to have any separation issues. If the black background didn't cut it, I would probably try to go with earth tones for her outfit and the background. That would be more "healer" for me than the 4th of July theme in this shot.

I would definitely get rid of that chair/cushion that she is leaning on, too. It makes the shot look more like a test shot than a formal portrait. There are a lot of posing things you could try including having her sit at a slight angle with her hands folded in her lap. You could even try throwing a snooted flash on her hands but I would keep them darker than her face. I understand her desire to show her hands but if it's going to be a portrait, the hands need to take second billing IMO. Also, if she wants the emphasis on her hands, I would suggest she remove at least the bracelet.

As has been pointed out, the reds are clipped. They are not technically clipped in this Jpeg but you clipped them somewhere in your workflow. You can tell by the blotchiness and the lack of detail in her dress.

I think a portrait of this woman has a lot of potential. I recommend you have another session with her, trying some different things with your lighting first and then working on poses.



Jan 15, 2013 at 10:14 PM
 

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AuntiPode
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Any observations on this portrait?


A softbox doesn't always mean soft light. What size soft box and how far back? A small softbox or one too far back becomes a relatively narrow light source that delivers light that isn't soft enough. Also, move the light towards the lens to better fill the lines and creases in her face. At the angle used, it isn't flattering.


Jan 15, 2013 at 11:08 PM
sadja
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Any observations on this portrait?


I'm not an expert at portraits, but I would pose the lights so that one light was above and behind to create a rim light, and a 2nd or good reflector pointed at the subject to soften the light on the face. Right now, the lighting looks harsh to me and the reds look blown and the skin too warm. I like Rusty's WB.


Jan 16, 2013 at 12:07 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Any observations on this portrait?


Eyeball wrote:
the reds are clipped. They are not technically clipped in this Jpeg but you clipped them somewhere in your workflow. You can tell by the blotchiness and the lack of detail in her dress.


+1 ... trying to "recover" them didn't go nearly as well as I would have hoped.



Jan 16, 2013 at 01:12 AM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Any observations on this portrait?


Ernie Aubert wrote:
AuntiPode, I'm confused by your saying that the lighting is direct; harsh, I can kind of get, but direct? I used a softbox, and everything I've read says it should be as close to the subject as it can be without being in the frame, to be less like a point source. About it being harsh: Was it just too bright a level, or is there more to it than that?

Look at your catch light. It appears to be from the fill light and it seems to be from a small source. Notice the position of the catch light. It is low, looks around four o'clock. Tell me about your fill light. Tell me how you decided to place where it is. Look at the specular highlights on her teeth. They shouldn't be there.

Tell me more about her being a healer. That can mean many things. Tell me about the purpose of this photograph.

Depending on the purpose, I can envision a much more natural photo of her, one where she is in the act of healing. If done right, you can silhouette the subject of her healing. Where does she place her hand on the person being healed? If it is the head, I can see a powerful, dramatic photo.



Jan 16, 2013 at 02:19 AM
Ernie Aubert
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Any observations on this portrait?


Eyeball: This is from about a year ago; I wasn't ignoring your suggestion from the earlier thread.

dmacmillan: I was using three speedlites - one in a 30"x30" softbox high and camera left, one in a 24"x24" softbox camera right for fill on her left side, and a third with a 5"x8" diffuser close to the camera for catchlights. As for how I decided to place any of them, I was just winging it because I didn't yet (and still don't, obviously!) know any better. She does "alternative" healing, with massage and herbs and probably other facets I don't know about. She wanted a portrait, possibly for a web site or printed flyers - I don't remember specifically.

Thanks to all of you for giving me all these pointers!



Jan 16, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Eyeball
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Any observations on this portrait?


Sorry Ernie. I thought it was new and I was just a little disappointed to see that you hadn't tried anything different.

I'm no expert and that's why I identify with your learning process here. Formal portraiture and artificial lighting opens up a whole new dimension. I think I have mentioned before here on FM that I think experimenting with this type of photography can help you even if you are not primarily a portrait/artificial lighting photographer. It makes you more aware of how light impacts how the subject is recorded in the photograph.

I'm looking forward to seeing your new efforts. You're giving me the itch to break out my own "studio" gear.



Jan 16, 2013 at 03:06 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Any observations on this portrait?


Doug ... good read at the smaller vs. larger light source relationship.

Like Dennis and so many others here, good portrait lighting isn't something that comes easily. While good ol' fashioned "trial & error" work well for some things ... I'm inclined to think that study, training & following the wisdom of experienced ones is probably the better path for anyone interested in becoming a "good" portrait photographer. A lot of time, energy & effort can be wasted on T&E as one chases their tail at getting better, only to continue doing the same fundamental mistakes.

I say this relative to the fact that I've been shooting for decades ... yet never even considered the relationship of key to fill size. Sure, I know all about soft/hard/size/distance of light source to subject ... but harmonizing vs. contradicting the naturalness of the studio light sources ... truly escaped me all these years. Of course, I'm not a portrait photographer and haven't used studio lighting to any significant degree, but likely this lack of knowledge has prevented me from producing good results along the way of my occasional portrait session.

I would imagine that Doug's background/training has him well versed in the discipline of approach to portraiture. Karen's experience similarly offers value here. I can imagine that he spent many, many hours being instructed (and scrutinized) in such during his formal training. While that was a long time ago, the fundamental issues therein ingrained are timeless jewels of knowledge, and once one understands them ... nobody can take them away. They are lifetime tools for us to use at our creative disposal.





Jan 16, 2013 at 04:10 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Any observations on this portrait?


For women of a certain age I'd suggest the main light should much closer to the axis of the camera and above the centerline. Reducing the angle of the light relative to the axis of the lens provides more even illumination of lines and creases and reduces them, visually. Having a main light at 45 degrees, for example demands a very large source. Otherwise it shadows lines and creases in an unflattering way. Pus the same light 10 degrees off axis and above and it can be flattering.


Jan 16, 2013 at 08:07 PM
Ernie Aubert
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Any observations on this portrait?


And rely on that for the catchlights?


Jan 16, 2013 at 08:15 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Any observations on this portrait?


For women of a certain age I'd suggest the main light should much closer to the axis of the camera and above the centerline. Reducing the angle of the light relative to the axis of the lens provides more even illumination of lines and creases and reduces them, visually. Having a main light at 45 degrees, for example demands a very large source. Otherwise it shadows lines and creases in an unflattering way. Pus the same light 5-10 degrees off axis and above and it can be flattering.

Look into butterfly lighting or beauty lighting. For example, a quick google:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyPUqqcccMk

http://jasonchristopher.com/blog/tag/beauty-photography/

http://tinyurl.com/aejc89b

A source properly placed leaves a single good catch light. Reflectors and additional lights can leave multiple catch lights, depending upon the position of the source/reflector and model pose.



Jan 16, 2013 at 08:17 PM
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