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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Behind the scenes Kristin and Joe Part I

If you are looking for the photos from Joe and Kristin's shoot, please see the May 18 post.

When we began our shoot we headed down to the river and decided to work our way back towards their house.  The sun was starting to drop towards the horizon but was still very harsh and bright.  I took the opportunity to use my reflector and see what it could do to fill in the shadows vs my available light and reflective umbrella I had with me.

Now first off, I knew that with the light I had, I wanted their faces nicely lit and exposed properly.  The problem with turning their faces into the sun and adjusting for exposure is that people tend to really squint and it is hard to look into the sun.  I also knew that if I turned their backs to the sun, then the scene would be back lit and they would either become silhouettes or I would have to blow out the whole background which means overexposing until its white with no detail.  

The solution is to turn them slightly, using the sun as a main light, and 'rim' lighting the subjects along their hair, shoulder, and one side of their bodies.  I still had the problem of filling in some light because their faces were in complete shadow.  The bottom picture above shows the best available shot I could get using only the available light and turning them sideways from the sun.  I also forgot to mention that the river was reflecting a lot of the light into them as well!  In this third shot I had to immediately edit the exposure of their skin in LR.  This began to overexpose the background and really blow out the highlight scene on Joe's face.  Since I work in RAW I was able to use my recovery slider to help reduce the amount of lost detail and try and hang on to anything I had.  Unfortunately, using too much recovery makes your photo look flat and muddy.  To compensate, I had to boost the black more than I normally would to get some contrast back and reduce that flat look.  Other than those basic adjustments (and sharpening / vignette) I didn't touch the photo.  The colors are all straight from the camera.  TECH INFO: 1/200th F5.0 ISO 100 @52mm

The middle photo is an example of using a Gold reflector.  Why Gold?  It is like using an orange gel on your flash.  It boosts warm colors which look nice on skin.  Gold reflectors tend to add a bit too much warmth though.  Thankfully, in post production, I can reduce the amount of warmth in the photo to correct it but this is time consuming and can have global effects over the whole photo.  I tried correcting in LR and a reduction of about 10 points of the orange slider seemed to reduce the golden appearance from the reflector.  However in this case, I found a global adjustment of 10 points of the overall saturation helped.  Using only the orange slider for this picture left too much red in the face and it looked a bit abnormal.   In the setup shots above you can see how far away my wife held the reflector while she blinded Joe and Kristin.  I think in this case, a white reflector would work nice as well and would reduce the amount of light reflected back but you would lose any sunset glow as well.  So... is this photo a success?  Well that depends on your taste I guess.  I was able to reduce my exposure in camera since I had the shadows on their faces filled in which in turn helped me capture a more proper exposure in the background.  Still not perfectly balanced but better.  And finally, I think the gold looks artificial, slightly cheesy, and a bit bright.  But this was an experiment.  In lower light the reflector would probably work better or with a different color.  What do you think?  TECH INFO: 1/320th F5.0 ISO 100 @ 67mm (notice I was able to speed up my aperture because of the increase in light on the subjects.  But if I were to use flash, I would not be able to exceed 1/250th in order to sync with my flash... see below)

I finally opted to using the flash as a main light for this photograph.  I guess I will call it my main light since I was able to adjust for the flash light on their faces, and slightly reduce and underexpose the background to help them stand out a bit.  I had no choice but to keep the highlighted edge from the harsh sun along the left side of the picture.  But used it as best I could to provide some separation and shape.  I set up the reflective umbrella (well, my wife did) as shown in the photo above.  Inside the reflector is silver fabric similar to the reflectors you would use in your cars windshield on  a hot day.  The flash is pointed into the reflector and helps to dissipate and provide a larger light source back on the subjects.  This makes the light a bit more soft leaving less defining shadows and smoothes out skin tones.  Again, I did not do much of any editing in this photo either to really show you the effects of the lighting.  Once you get good lighting I find you don't need much correction anyway.  I left the color balance which seems ok and only boosted the blacks slightly to help add some contrast and dimension.  I should also mention that interestingly when you boost the blacks the color in the photo become slightly saturated.  However I did not compensate for this, correct, or alter the color in any way.  TECH INFO: When I looked up my metadata on this photo I saw that I mistakenly used 1/320th of a second.  What about camera sync?  well.... you can obviously tell that the light from the reflector still hit Joe and Kristin.  In the original photograph, there was a lot of extra space to the left and right of them which was all lit by ambient light.  If I took this same picture against a dark wall at 320th, you would most likely see a shadowy vignette from the shutter closing off and not capturing all of the light.  In this case I got away with it because of the well lit ambient and my tight crop that probably only used 50% of the original photograph.  F4.5 ISO 100 @43mm

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