Upload & Sell: On
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.