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 Post subject: First portrait attempts
PostPosted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:15 pm 
Hi all, I don't normally shoot portraits or people pictures - one of the reasons is that I am put off by the idea of studio set-ups and all of the extra gear and expense. With that in mind, here are a couple of pics I took yesterday which I'm very pleased with - what are they missing or how could they be improved? All I did was point the camera at badlyoverdrawngirl and open up the aperture to 2.8. What else should I have thought about?



 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 3:56 am 

Both are good photos. However, in the first photo, you can try to bounce light in order to avoid undesired shadows. In the right lower corner there's a thing causing some distraction there. Both details are easy stuff to correct. Nice photo though.

I really prefer the second since you can make eye contact and you receive some of the mood at that moment. Sweet portrait. Just be careful with hard lines crossing behind your subject's head and depth of field since it affects your focus on the model. Both are really nice photos.

You didn't like them with color? How was your lighting? Can you share a little of your camera settings? (ISO, Lens, focal distance)

Cheers :)

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:14 am 
Thanks for the feedback Camut. Both were taken at 55mm and 2.8, using the lens you can see in my sig. I actually have the 50mm f1.8 on order, the same one that you have. I suppose that would have helped with the background blur. As for your comment about distracting lines behind the head, I think this goes back to the point in my post about what puts me off portraiture - without setting up a studio how often would I get to chance to shoot someone with a perfectly clear background? In these pics I made an effort to isolate the model and didn't mind that the sofa can still be seen, although I take your point that it would have been better had it not been behind her head. Also I should have cropped out the object in the corner.

As for the light, are you referring to the shadows that can be seen on the wall in Pic 1? What we had there was a large window to the left of badlyoverdrawngirl. This pic was taken in daylight. I don't think there were any other lights in the room. How could I have prevented this, and how could I improve it with post processing?

Thanks for the help!

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 1:32 pm 
badlyoverdrawnboy wrote:
without setting up a studio how often would I get to chance to shoot someone with a perfectly clear background?
Thanks for the help!

Well, I want to tell you that I'm learning as well. Maybe the only advantage I have is that I have a "pro" photographer behind my back telling me what's "wrong" in general terms. This can be a pain in the neck because they tell you you're responsible for your photo and the way it is presented to other people, they can be very hard sometimes :evil: .

What I have learned so far about portraiture, is that you have to be under control of the situation, let's say, the model, the background and the light.

What do they say? Well, if you can move your model, then do it to a better place, if not, try to find a better angle, let's say, from a lower angle. Then there's the light. You can have some help from artificial light source, incandescent or fluorescent D55 to soften shadows. Depending on where's your window, you can decide where to put your model and what kind of light you want to use to give a certain mood to the photo. If you have problems with the shadows, you can bounce light with a white cardboard (believe me, it works) that is an unexpensive solution to this problem.

About the lines behind the head, if you can choose where your subject is going to be at the moment of the photo, then place her (him) somewhere else, if you can't, then look for a ladder and take the photo from above, or get on your knees and take it from below, if none of those are possible, then try to highlight your subject as much as you can with the light and using a very shallow depth of field (f2.8, f2.2, f2.0... f1.8) to blur as much as you can your background. You have to be very careful when using shallow depth of field not to distort the face of your model and getting the most of the face in focus, first of all, her (his) eyes or look.

I know that working without a studio gives you lots of things to take care of, but generally, if you're not going to be a fashion or commercial photographer, you're not going to have a studio. You can check on famous portrait photographers and their technique out of a studio, they are amazing. I'm telling you to encourage you to use whatever you have (light, background, model) in hand to get your ideal photo. In the end, the photo you're taking has to please you, in first place. You're the boss there.

I noticed that I talked too much today... I have to go on vacations again... :oops:

I hope I was of some help.

Cheers :)

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 3:41 pm 
badlyoverdrawnboy wrote:
I actually have the 50mm f1.8 on order, the same one that you have. I suppose that would have helped with the background blur...without setting up a studio how often would I get to chance to shoot someone with a perfectly clear background?...As for the light, are you referring to the shadows that can be seen on the wall in Pic 1? What we had there was a large window to the left of badlyoverdrawngirl. This pic was taken in daylight.

Badlyoverdrawnboy, both your images are good attempts. I gather you've questions that need answering, and Camut's done a good job. There are a few things that I think need adding.

Having an f-stop of 1.8 doesn't necessarily blur the background more; to achieve bokeh, there are other factors to think about, such as the focal length, the distance between you, the subject and the background. If your subject is further from the background, then you will isolate him/her more.

As for the background, I rarely find myself in a studio - I'm all for natural light portraiture, so either I take my subjects outdoors, or sit them indoors near a window and then control light with reflectors and positioning. I enjoy capturing an aspect of the background to add a sense of time and place, but this depends on the job to hand - for a clean portraiture, you can simply buy a large piece of white paper (A2 is reasonable) from an art store and stick it to a well lit wall. Sit your subject at least 8" from the wall so that you don't cast a very harsh shadow, and also at a slight angle so you pull out definition in the face. A simple reflector on the lap will lift shadows below the chin. Depending on the face shape, there are many viewpoints that will flatter - just keep moving around and trying different things with the light. Don't stay static as I've seen many professionals and enthusiasts. The light doesn't move on it's own; you move and the light moves with you.

The final basic principle is to get the eyes in focus in portraiture. Don't forget this. There's a lot to portraiture, which can't be summarised in one post, and experience counts for a lot in this genre. Keep taking portraits and ground the basics - it gets easier.

I've 2 portraits on my website that might illustrate the use of natural light and a simple paper background or plain painted wall - look for the images of Gillian and Nora as my models. They were taken with only natural light.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 3:03 am 
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Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2007 7:03 am
Posts: 1899
Location: Southern California
I would love to try my hand at the B&W, bodboy..I like these real well..

my favorite of the series, is the second one...I love the mystery of hiding behind the coffee cup...but my mind wishes to see more of her beautiful face, more of the contour of the cup, perhaps a more delicate porcelain cup, to match the fineness of her features..maybe if it was not so stark white, up against her skin..and was less reflective, and more muted...I want to tell her to finish that last sip, put the cup down, so we can see her.
I would love to see you try that shot again, with both of her eyes the prominent feature, not the cup. Dose that make sense?

Number 2, I can see the personality in her eyes, the begining of a the sweep of her hair, and the up turned eye..
To me, her face is very appealing..timeless. If you dressed her in period clothes, she would be a beauty in the Rennasaince times, as well as today.

Love the light in the second one, and along with you, I will be working on my portrait work.


canon 7D, Mark iii 5D, ef 70-300 f/4-5.6, ef 28-135mm canon 100-400mm L IS 4.5, and a little 24-70 L f/2.8...

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2008 12:05 pm 
agree with patti, I don't like the no.1 what is the point of portrait if the face is covered by other object.

also, try not to shoot people when drinking/eating, it can turn the most
beautiful woman to the ugliest woman (i'm being exagerating here hehe).

for the second pic, I agree with Photoj, i think lower angle will work better
I figured out that shooting in eye level on portrait is the best one so far
, less distortion => more flattering. So, don't be lazy to squad down.

you'll need a better background tho rather than wall or couchl, but not too
distractive one, so you can maximize your dof potential, and don't forget to
distant your object from the background.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 11:22 am 
Is the eye not in focus in the first picture? The coffee cup was quite intentional, I waited for her to sip and then focussed (or at least tried to) on her eye, the point being that she's peeking over the cup and still looking directly at me. I don't think I need to show the whole face if I can successfully isolate a prominent feature. There are plenty of good portraits with people partially covering their faces with their hands, for instance. The eye draws me in to the picture. Does no-one agree with this? Is it just that it's not sharp enough in this example?

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 3:47 pm 
I'll back you on that point that the mug would be fine - a covered face is fine as long as the eye is in focus, as it is here.

There are more fundamental issues with your images that make them unrefined and that's to do with composition, use of lighting, use of location, positioning of the subject and technical control. These are all part of the basics to good portraiture photography; as I've said before, they're good attempts, but that's all.

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