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Thread: Lack of portrait skill that even Photoshop could not save

  1. #1

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    Lack of portrait skill that even Photoshop could not save

    I was asked to repeat my first American Gothic "cover" portrait of my friends now that the kid is a year old, but this time I kinda missed the boat. For one, although not visible in this shot, is the fact that their faces went out of focus. But more worrying is the exposure. The foreground is shadowed by the tree, but even my Photoshop efforts could not salvage it. This is the raw scan with no adjustments. The time of day was chosen so that the house would be evenly illuminated, but it seems that the foreground suffered.

    So what would be ya'lls advice for getting a better result here? Fill flash I assume? I want to keep the look kind of natural. In hindsight I thought maybe what I should have done was do an incident meter on the house, then on their faces and use flash to equalize the two readings? Not that I have a flash to use or anything, but I'd like to improve in the future.



    I guess it would appear that the first one was made with overcast light. That almost seems to be a better situation. Hmmm. I think I was too pleased just to have clouds, and ignored the contrasty light.

  2. #2
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Lack of portrait skill that even Photoshop could not save

    You coulda had a pitchfork for the woman to hold!

    The first one is pretty good, but a reflector might have helped fill in the pants shadows if that's what you're concerned about. A second person should hold the reflector bent a little so as to fill in the foreground.

    Westcott 301 Photo Basics 40-Inch 5-in-1 Reflector is what I have.

    recent example shows with both reflector and flash/umbrella in bright sun. It's from a DSLR, but lighting is lighting. You can see in the bright sun I was able to retain shadow detail on the groom's clothing and highlights in the white dress with sun coming from the side. Should be easier with b&w film than a DSLR, as film is a little more forgiving.



    Another option would be to dodge the lower right portion of the image a little while printing.

  3. #3

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    Re: Lack of portrait skill that even Photoshop could not save

    Just to clarify, the 1st is the finished one which I am pleased with and which has extensive processing. The goal for the 2nd washed out one was to make them similar looking.

  4. #4
    joseph
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    Re: Lack of portrait skill that even Photoshop could not save

    I don't know what the neg or the scan is like,
    but if it's at all acceptable, and if the enlargement is not so great as to make the soft heads a deal breaker (perhaps unlikely)
    it might be possible to improve it slightly.

    I had a go at an edit, hope you don't mind-

    Main adjustments were levels, a bit of shadow/highlight, brightness/contrast-
    I also cropped, and did some geometrical transformations in a bid to better match the composition of the first-
    though as you can see, the second is photographed from a different distance and height,
    and the couple are not in the same position.

    At this size of reproduction, the difference is not as pronounced as in the picture above...

    Another scan, without the clipped highlights, might be the place to start-
    but even from this, an improvement is possible-


    jpg.gif portrait ps lfpf.jpg (93.1 KB)
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails portrait ps lfpf.jpg  

  5. #5

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    Re: Lack of portrait skill that even Photoshop could not save

    can you re shoot it? that would be the best option IMO.

    i like the pose and the clothes in the 1st shot better anyway.....and yes, she needs a pitch fork.
    My YouTube Channel has many interesting videos on Soft Focus Lenses and Wood Cameras. Check it out.

    My YouTube videos
    oldstyleportraits.com
    photo.net gallery

  6. #6

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    Re: Lack of portrait skill that even Photoshop could not save

    Nathan.

    Basic fill flash / bounce light issue. You can even use a bare bones used Vivitar to make a world of difference.

    Meter the background, in this case the house. Choose an f-stop which will fall within the power range of your flash unit. Most compact flash units have auto settings with a range of f-stops you can choose.

    Since your subjects were/are standing in the shade and the house is in the sun, they will be underexposed without supplemental illumination. For a more normal appearance, hit them with a strobe output that matches or is slightly less than the "house" f-stop you chose. Using a light modifer such as an umbrella or reflector, even bouncing off of a white foamcore panel, will soften shadows and create a fill light that doesn't scream "flash fill".

    Your shutter speed will be the shutter speed you determined from the initial metering of the house. As long as this shutter speed is in the flash-synch speed range of your camera's shutter, you're set.

    I shoot glamour models for magazines and use this technique all the time, even with simple Vivitar/Nikon flashes.

    Model: Playboy model Laurie Wallace / Femmes Fatales magazine
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails NN Laurie Wallace TS 1A.jpg  

  7. #7

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    Re: Lack of portrait skill that even Photoshop could not save

    the house appears to be tilting a bit in the first one though it may just be foundation shrubbery and stair highlights
    2nd photo it looks to be rocked

    How did they both become more attractive? lol ..9 months of hell I guess


    FWIW I think the first is too much house and 2nd too much of a little of everything
    Id pick a day very much like the 1st photo so the environment remains much the same showing only how the family has changed

  8. #8

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    Re: Lack of portrait skill that even Photoshop could not save

    Yep, I would like to reshoot it of course. The existing negs are probably salvageable, but I would like to do it right the first time. The focus is so annoying, you just can't see it until you enlarge the dang thing and then you're like, "Daaah!!!" The slightest nudge cocks it up. I was erring on faster shutter speed too since the little guy was squirming all over the place. I think I chose 1/30th, so no small -stop to save me. This would also be the first large format shot I've done with a stuffed monkey on my camera.

  9. #9
    Downstairs
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    Re: Lack of portrait skill that even Photoshop could not save

    Humbly: I would lower the camera bit to get the heads clear against the white woodwork. Anyhow people gain presence when shot chest high.

  10. #10

    Re: Lack of portrait skill that even Photoshop could not save

    We make photographs with light.
    You ignored the light.
    You're not saving that photo.
    Do it over.

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