Lighting a face: a small detail

The title says it. Detail, and attention to it, are what makes you a pro.

Look at this image, from last Friday. The lovely and talented Vanessa Scott, whom I photographed in Timmins, Ontario:

(ISO100, 1/60 sec, f/5. Lit with two flashes, direct, no umbrella. Left flash gridded 1/4 power, right flash unmodified 1/2 power.)

Not bad. But look closely at Vanessa’s face. Closer!

See the two little bright areas next to her mouth? My right-side flash was as little too low, so the shadows are not quite right.

Let’s start up Lightroom and make it better with the Develop module’s healing tool. Two little clicks and I fill those light areas:

Proper Rembrandt lighting. So the whole image now looks like this:

A subtle change, but much better.

And as said, that’s what makes you a good photographer. Attention to detail. When you hire a pro, like me, this is the kind of thinking he or she will engage in to get you the best possible images.

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I have amazing deals for portraits this month. From corporate headshots to family photos: give me a call or send me an email to hear the options.

To polarize or to ND?

Saturday, I shot water details in Timmins:

When shooting water, like rapids, a polarizer is the obvious choice of filter. Turn the polarizer until reflections disappear.

But sometimes,  you need a neutral density filter, because it is darker. The shot above is an example of that: even with a dark (factor 8) ND filter and at f/32 and 50ISO, I could only get a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds. Which, as it happens, was fine; it’s exactly what I wanted. Any slower, and the flow lines would disappear.

For a waterfall I would have wanted even slower. Much slower: 20 seconds.

If I had used the polarizer, I would not have done that, this time.

Why? Because I was shooting on a bright sunny day. Too much light.

Lesson: the best time to shoot water motion is on an overcast day. Bright overcast is fine!

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Closer

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” (Robert Capa)

You have heard me on this theme many times. Getting close can often make your images better. You get close and intimate with the subject, your images have more impact. Like in these two, from that recent shoot:

Now of course you can do this by getting close. But be careful: closer than a couple of metres means you distort faces.

A better way is to use a longer lens. My favourite lens for this work is the 70-200, therefore. That has the additional benefit of not forcing you to be “in your subject’s face”. Yes, you have to have space, but that’s the entire point!

An alternate way is simply to use a somewhat long lens and then to crop for the rest. Those two were taken with the 85mm lens and cropped afterward. That is why you have all those megapixels, after all.

Next time you shoot anything, do yourself a favour and shoot the way you would normally shoot, but also shoot closer. Then when you look at the results, consider carefully which ones you like better. Where you like the close-up better: why? Where you like the wider view better: why? This is how you become a better photographer.

There’s still space on tomorrow’s Travel Photography session in Oakville, Ontario: 10AM-1PM, Sat 12 April 2014. $125 and it’s virtually private tuition!

If…

Robert Capa said: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you are not close enough”.

OK, he was talking about war photos, but he was right in general. Often, pics are better when you get close.

And you can get very close. Here’s student Chantal during Saturday’s flash course:

We call the above an “extreme close-up”. Yes, you can cut off half a face. The result: you get closer than ever, and the photo has a very intimate and personal feeling.

Your homework: try to do some close-ups and extreme close-ups.

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