Studio Lighting Photo Critique of Student Work
Well, we've talked a lot about all these light shaping tools for a couple days now and I think we need to, it's kinda like we need to put it all together now. We've got all these ingredients, now we need to bake something, make something. So let's put it all into practice and let's just see what we've got going. I don't know any of these pictures, I haven't look at any of 'em, well I say I don't know 'em, I haven't looked at 'em yet, I might see something I know, but I don't think so. I don't know any of the makers, their names aren't on 'em, so I don't hurt anybody's feelings that I would do ever anyway, but, so I don't know any of the pictures. This is the first time I've seen 'em, right now. First glance, I like the impact of this picture a lot, it makes me wanna look at it and that's the first thing I notice about it. In fact, lemme just show you, this is this is kind of a guide, this is part of the bonus stuff that they're giving out, this is my list of effectiveness. Kind of a gu...
ide for gauging your work, whether it's print competition for a judge or for yourself, it's just a list of 10 things to go down the order of, listed in the importance that I think is probably the right order. And so think about these topics. Impact is number one, the picture's gotta have impact or it's not gonna get my attention. Second is creativity, third is style, composition, lighting, color harmony, center of interest, print presentation, if it's a print, subject matter, the technique used, is it storytelling? And finally, what about the technical excellence of the overall feel of the image? So if you go through those topics that I just read, how does this feel for ya? This one hits pretty high on almost all of 'em. This is a really nice image, it's really well lit. I particularly like the treatment in the background, and what I like is it woulda been easy for the photographer of this picture to burn in this corner right in here, this area behind her, but there's something about this dark area here, leading to the light face, leading to the dark hair, leading to the light background. There's something about this big diagonal coming through here and it's almost like dark for light for dark for light and I like that. And I probably would not have thought of it. I think it's a very clever use of light quality. So well done, you whoever did this. Looks like a great model and I love the red streaks in her hair. Awesome. First things first, to me it feels like it's just a little bit under exposed, maybe a third of a stop, maybe a half of a stop. And then the one thing that I would probably advise the photographer to consider is not putting the subject's eyes in the exact center of your frame. If you draw a horizontal line through the middle of this picture, the eyes go right through the middle of the picture. I would put the eyes up, so that means that the hat would be higher up in the frame. It might even clip the hat when you get the face in the right position, I think. But I think I would do that. I think I like the light quality, I think the face looks good, I think it's a storytelling image with good impact. Overall, it's a pretty decent picture. I think it's, obviously, this is for a client, for a specific purpose and it probably served its purpose pretty well. I don't see anything about it that's a big trouble spot other than the cropping, not the cropping, but the positioning, the head position. I would really look at that and then I would just maybe brighten it up a little bit. So, but I think it looks nice. This is really nice, first impact and first thought is nice picture, I'm in a frame here that I can't see the edge of the, the left edge of the frame, so I'm not quite sure where my, where the cropping is over here on it, but I, so compositionally, I'm not quite sure what I'm seeing, but I like, it has a real nice feel and I like it. And does this not fit the criteria of one of the light patterns that we talked about on yesterday morning? Remember that light, you bet, it's got the closed loop, the modified loop which closes that around and puts us right in the right spot for the triangle on the cheek. So it works pretty well. I don't see anything here I could talk to that needs a lot of improvement, except I would probably try to get a little bit more life in her eyes. Her eyes are a little bit dead to me and I think you could probably do that doing some of those editing techniques that we were talking about yesterday. I'm not sure that this photographer wants me editing their picture, but I would go in and use some of those iris-enhance techniques that we talked about yesterday and I think they would improve that picture a lot without having to do anything else or reshoot it or anything else. But I think it's a nice picture, beautiful model, great idea. This is gonna sound weird, she does not have the perfect nose and I love the way it looks and I think it's lit properly for that nose. She knows what her nose looks like, I think she looks great and I think it probably flatters her, she probably likes it. So good job. I'd like to see the rest of the crop, but, oh, I can move this back and see it a little bit, yeah, so it's fine, cropping's fine, yeah, good, okay. Love this, love it. Ya know, the thing is, when you are head-on into a glamor-looking shot, there are five things that I kinda look for just in the face itself, and there's five points that I call the mask of the face, and that is right between the eyes, the tip of the nose, the tip of the chin, and both cheeks, the roundedest, most roundedness, the roundedest, what did he say? The most rounded spot on the cheeks, so watch for those two spots, the chin, the nose, and right between the eyes, and if you like what's going on there with the highlights, you're probably gonna like the picture. And I like what's going on there with those highlights, I think they're handled beautifully in this picture. I think it's got high impact. You can see that there's a bit of an accent light from behind at a lower value so as not to scream at the viewer, but to subtly separate her from the background. And I think it's handled with a lot of tact, so I think it was handled really well. Great job of retouching and hair and makeup looks fabulous. Great job, I don't see anything there that really needs to talk about. Interesting how different people are in their final prep and their final edit. If this picture, lemme see if I can set my, lemme set my zoom here and go into this picture. So if you notice, the bottom of the eye, and you can see where it looks to me like they've gone in and brightened up just a little bit of that bottom of the eye just a little bit and I think that's a nice little touch, because it doesn't look like it's overdone. There are a lot of people that are over, over, over editing eyes these days, and I always judge the print competitions out in Las Vegas at WPPI and it's always a problem, we always see the judge's scores really reflect over-retouching, ya know, it's kinda like, you don't have to take it that far, ya know? Over-sharpening is always an issue as well. Sharpening's one thing.
I'm just curious, you were talking a lot about specular highlights yesterday.
And I see that a lot in her earrings and her clips in the hair.
Do you have anything to comment on that?
Only that it looks to me like in the post-production work because of the, thanks for asking that, because of the highlights in the hair, the hair bits and the earrings, I think that there's quite a bit of burning in on the face, on the edges of the face, bringing the viewer attention to the center of the face and that would be indicated because the highlights are a pretty good size and the light source isn't, so I think that was done in post and I think it's, but I think it's handled quite well. But yeah, you do, when you've got shiny things, they need to see light to react and look like shiny things are supposed to look. They have to have light, so, I like it. The only, the first thing here is I've got great eye contact, great sharpness, I love the selection of the aperture. I think you picked the right aperture, the exposure, the depth of field in the background I think is just right. The only real thing that I have a problem with that I would really wanna fix is I think that the main light is just too bright, it's not harsh or anything else, it's just too bright. I gotta get it down and get it under control. And let me just take a quick peek at the histogram. Ah, there's detail there, but boy, there's not much, if you look at that little gap right there, it's awfully close to the edge. So it's fine and it's detail there and it's gonna print, but just be careful about not letting it get too, not letting it get too far outta hand. Sorry, I was zoomed in there. And I'm not sure, on my screen, on my monitor, the skin tone looks pretty good. Up there it looks just a tiny bit yellow, a little bit warm. On mine it's not quite that warm, so it looks good. The exposure across the chest and on the shadowed side of the face all looks great. One thing I will comment on is, if you look at the eye, this is an incident we were talking about earlier, earlier today, about the brightness level in your studio. Look at how large the eyes are dilated. Well, I can tell you that photographer had the modeling lamp on low power, because if the modeling light were on full power, that iris would be dilated down, and there'd be more color coming through and less of the big, round, black dot in the center. Does that make sense? Okay. I don't know if it's true or not, but I was told one time that Paul Newman, when Paul Newman was photographed, I mean, he's known for those ice-blue eyes of his, right? As a great American actor. I was always told that when he would go into a studio that he made the photographers turn all the lights on. He says, "My eyes are my stock and trade, "and if you mess around with that, I can't work," so... Very nice. Good, impactful picture, I would like to see a little bit of separation to the background and maybe on the original file it's there, I'm just not seeing it here. Yeah, so I would wanna come back in here somewhere, just either a little tiny bit of an edge light on him or a little bit of light in the background itself, but he's falling just so much into the darkness that I'm kinda loosing out there. I think it's probably a portrait that is very, very meaningful to this person, and this goes to the discussion about a photo is of someone, a portrait is about someone. Hey, even something as simple as the hat is the right prop that tells us something about this man. And you almost wanna ask him, "Hey, where were you stationed, was it South Pacific?" Ya know, where was he? An interesting thing about the light, here you can see in the catch lights, you see that there's one light that's a little bit lower right, at about the four o'clock position, and then there's another one that's high and to the left, at about 10 o'clock and it's a small, small source on the second light. Could be speed lights used on that lower right, bounced into something and then the top left one could be a speed light by itself as almost a fill light. But I think I'd be a little bit careful about the nose, the highlight on the nose is a little bright and that could be brought down, but overall I think the exposure could come up a bit. But it's a nice, impactful picture. It does catch your attention when it first pops up. And I think part of this is, that is a big part of this. I think we want pictures to just grab us by the throat and make us look at 'em. I heard a story from, there's a guy from National Geographic named Sam Abell and Sam, brilliant, brilliant photographer for the last 30, 40 years and he did a story on the gardens, the private gardens in Tokyo, so the wealthy people that live in Tokyo, really wealthy people, still don't have any big property. They're just like everybody else, they just have a tiny little lot. And so they spend all their money decorating these very, very exotic gardens behind their house. So they might have a garden area that's from me to Kenna. It's not very big, property's such a premium. So he did this story and it took him three trips, I think, he told me, to Japan to do this story for Geographic, and he really loved the story and he got these great images of these gardens. And he said he was on a plane when the issue came out and he was across the aisle from a guy who's holding up that issue of National Geographic and he's turning the page and the guy's doing just like this. And his speed is just about like this and he's not stopping, he's not slowing down, and Sam said he could feel his heart starting to race a little bit, 'cause he knows he's getting close to his section, and he's just kinda watching out of the corner of his eye, ya know, and he's waiting and he's waiting and he's getting all excited to see if the guy's gonna stop and look at his pictures and the guy got to Sam's pictures and he never slowed down, he just kept turning the page. And he said he just lost it for a fraction of a second and just reached across the aisle, grabbed the magazine and said, "Stop and just look at the pictures!" And the guy was like, "Who are you?" And he started laughing and he said, "I'm Sam Abell. "It took me three years to get those pictures," or three trips or whatever it was. "Just stop and look at 'em, stop turning the page." That's when I know I see a good picture when I'm traveling. If I pick up a magazine, if I stop turning the page, it makes me look and if it can do that, great. That's half the battle is just stopping and looking. This one made me stop and look. There's a few things I'd wanna do differently about it, but it would make me stop and look. So well done. Well, I'm looking to see if there's anything that I see that I would wanna improve upon, and I don't think there is. Her pose is probably her, she could be a little bit cold in the studio, she's hugging herself. She looks like she could be a little bit cold. I like what's going on, I like the light quality. In fact, let me, I'm gonna change that zoom. Let's change that to one, one. And how's she lit, my students?
Octobox, big ol' octobox. It's a big one and it's really, really perfectly centered in her eyes, right? No highlight in the whites of the eyes. Cheeks look great, the lips, the nose, that's what's so great about an octobox. Look at the shadow under her chin. It comes together really nicely. Nicely done, whoever's this is. And I like the fall off on the lower half. I'm guessing there might've been a grid, well. Nope, there's no grid on it. But then they probably either feathered it a little bit or just burned the bottom and did a little gradient burn on the bottom to let that light fall off below the arm. Nicely done. I would probably fix that. I don't know if that's a shadow or if it's a mole or if it's an infection, maybe it's a tattoo, I'm not sure what it is, but I would wanna make sure that I could either see it or I would hide it, but I'm kinda seeing it and kinda not seeing it, so I would either go one way or the other, all in or all out. Interesting thing about that, when you photograph for clients, you have to, when you're gonna do retouching for a client's portrait, you have to be real clear about what stays and what goes on faces. Moles stay, blemishes can go, scars, ya know. There's a great photographer in Michigan, Iron Mountain, Michigan, named Carl Caylor, and Carl's a great friend and he's a terrific photographer and we didn't know for years that he has a twin brother. And he said that when they were in high school that the high school senior portrait photographer that did their portraits retouched, Carl's got a scar by his eye from a wrestling incident in school and the photographer thought he would do the family a favor and retouch the scar off of all his pictures, so his mom picked up all the portraits and says, "I can't tell my boys apart "without seeing Carl's scar, "so take this back and put the scar back," so the guy had to go back and put the scar back. (laughs) So you do wanna be sure, be careful about the things that you fix and/or change and/or repair. Um, my first reaction is I'm assuming that the color balance I'm seeing was intentional, because of the blue light in the hair. And I kinda like the blue light in the hair. I'm not a big fan of the pinkish light on the skin. I'm a little bit of, on my monitor, it's a little bit more pink than you're seeing. But I am a big fan of that blue light in the hair. One thing that I would consider, watching the details. The left, the fingers of the left hand could be handled better, either more in the shot, either as an element of the shot our out completely. And then I would be a little bit careful about the eyes have not really great catch lights in there at all and it does make the eyes appear dark, and while they're not that dark, they are kinda deep-set eyes and it does require, on deep-set eyes, it does require that you lower your light a little bit to get that highlight in there. And you know, it's not a dead-set rule either that you always have to have that highlight, but it is a nice contributing element to the finished photograph, I think. And if you like the light in this position, fine. Then just clone in and fake a catch light in there and get it from someplace else, ya know? I know a lot of photographers that just have folders filled with eyes in catch lights and they clone 'em over to images all the time, ya know? Just like you have a cloud folder of all great clouds to drop behind pictures. There's a lot of stadiums that people have just to drop behind sports kids, ya know? Yeah?
So when you're looking at these, at images with sort of colors of light, would it be gels, would it be, like what are the things that would make those that color?
So there's a light blue gel, it's pretty light and the pastel that you're seeing on background is that's a result of a really light background to begin with and it's getting a lot of light already hitting it, so that makes the gel color the pastel that you're seeing coming off of the background itself and in her hair, down her arm, on her waist, and on her bum. All of that is a result of that light being a pastel instead of a deep, rich, screaming dark blue, it's because the background was very, very light to start with, but the use of gel here and the use of color is a good use, I think, just a little bit, but the skin tone, to me, is just a little bit off. Gels are great to use and gels can be easily overdone. But they're also great for correction, and that's what they were designed to, initially for color correction. And then, of course, theatrical work, stage lighting and any kind of theatrical work, gels are so valuable. What's your first thought on that one? You like that? Yeah, I think it's got high impact. I'm guessing he was in there having a portrait made and decided to light that cigarette and the photographer just took the picture. I'll bet they didn't plan it that way. I'm guessing that was a spur of the minute thing that the photographer thought, "I'm gonna shoot that. "Wait, wait, do that again, hold that up there," and bam, he shot one, that's what I think. I do wish there was a little bit more detail in the front left portion of this thing. I wish I could see more, I just wanna see just a tiny bit more information, but there's high impact, it's gonna make me stop turning a page if I see it in a magazine. And that's the way I categorize and think about photography. Would I stop turning a page in a magazine at 32,000 feet? Ya know? Pretty meaningful picture. That's gonna mean an awful lot to somebody. I don't see a thing I would say for you to do different. I think it's a beautiful sentiment, beautiful portrait, says a lot, and somebody, somewhere is just gonna wanna look at it for a while, ya know? It's great. There's a technique in Photoshop that I know some of you use and know about called Liquefy. And that Liquefy tool, Liquefy is really good at some things and Liquefy, you can overdo and get yourself in trouble with Liquefy. But there are subtle, small, little things that you can do with Liquefy and you can straighten out little wrinkles in fabrics and on the waistline, if somebody's shirt's tucked in or little things that you can do with Liquefy that are really, really great. And I bring that up only because, in this case, I might've gone in and just a tiny bit Liquified over her left eyelid and pushed it up slightly. Just a little bit of a tiny, 1/8th of an inch, 1/16th of an inch lift to pull her eyelid off of her eye just a bit. She'd never know I did it, no one would ever know I did it. I would never tell 'em I did it. I would just very slightly do it and make it just a little bit better for her.
Just a quick question about cropping, I notice down in the left lower corner that there's just--
Can you, any comment about that?
I mean, it's not major.
Either show more or show less, but that is, the problem with that is it's a light trap and it takes my eye out of the frame. It keeps fighting for my attention with her face. So I would either crop it out or I would burn it down to where it disappeared. Here's one of the things, one of the old, one of the old school portrait guys taught me. He said that when you look at an image, if you're trying to figure out if it's telling the right story and if your attention's going to the right place, he said, "Turn the image upside down." Turn it upside down and squint. Turn the image completely upside down, squint your eyes and see if the thing that draws you in closest is where you want the viewer's attention to go or not. Interesting thought, I had, maybe two years ago, I was thinking about this, I think that the eye is drawn to the minority in a photograph. It's drawn to the minority, whatever topic, whatever object, whatever thing, whatever area, whatever it is that is the minority gets my attention usually. So if I think about that, if I really, really want my attention to go to that face, her face is the lightest thing in this picture. All around this thing is all dark, so her face is kinda the minority, it's big in the frame, but it pulls me in, because it's the smaller thing. Yup. I'd sell that tomorrow. Why wouldn't that be on his album cover? Or why wouldn't that be on his, in his brand for his business? I like this a lot, I'll tell you what I would do if this were my picture, I'd pull the color out of it. I don't think it needs color. If color doesn't help, then get rid of it, that's my motto. I love great color work. I love great color pictures, but if it's not helping you, get rid of the color. Russ Harrington is a wonderful photographer in Nashville, I was just talking Kenna about. Russ just did the new pictures for Keith Urban's new album. Russ has shot 750 album covers. This guy is a machine shooting musicians. Everyone he's photographed, and this new picture of Keith Urban, the art director decided to turn it black and white and then he put the color back in his eyes. His eyes are icy blue, Keith Urban's eyes are icy blue. And it's the only use of selective color that I've ever seen that I kind of actually liked. Russ was like, "I'm not sure if I like "the selective color they did to the treatment," but I looked at it and went, "That's probably "the only one I've ever seen that I really do like," so. But in this case, I'd just pull the color out. I think it's lit edgy, I think he looks... I just like it, I think it fits his mood. Sure, Julia?
Just curious what you think about the blacks, because it looks like there's a lot of black areas in the image that might not have as much detail?
So can you comment on that?
For me, an image with a lot of black without detail, I'm not as big, I'm not as opposed to as I am highlights having no detail. And I'm pretty opposed to highlights not having much detail. But blacks, blacks block up all the time and sometimes, in a dramatic-lit situation, that's what's required, and so I can certainly live with it. Yeah?
How do you think that this was lit, Tony? I was kind of dissecting how it was lit.
I think the background light and the light on him is the same light. I think there's only one light. I mean, with that light, if you think about this, just look at it and then push that light around, push it around, push it around to the right, around, around, around, around, hey, I can get his face with half of it and I can get the background with the other half. And I say that because of the fall off in the background from right to left. Since it fell off, I'm thinking it could be the same light source. I would be interested if the photographer that did this, who he doesn't have to tell us who he is, but if he's watching, I would love it if he sent you a note I the chat room and said, "Yeah, that was one light or not." But it might be two, but I think it's one light. But I like it a lot, I like the source that was used, because it makes the jacket look great and it makes him look pretty cool. Just sayin'. Good use of flash outdoors, good time of day to get out there and shoot. Specular highlights, remember, we talk about specularity, you can see the reflection of the light source right in his glasses. And it's a great softbox, oh it looks like an octo, it's an octo with a grid, so they managed the light on the face and managed to let it fall off starting at about his hand and his pants it starts dropping in here, because there's a grid on the box. I think it's a pretty good use of light direction. I think he looks pretty good, I think he's posed pretty good. I'm guessing that it's, I'm guessing that it might have something to do with Citgo, or I'm not sure why that sign was left in if it's not. If it's just a portrait for him, I probably would've taken the sign out. Ya know, it's funny how simple retouching things can be done nowadays. I have a friend in Kansas City who's a great commercial guy and he shot a building downtown, one of them high rise buildings, and when he finally got his camera in the right spot to get this one picture that he needed, there was a street sign right in front of where he needed to be and he couldn't figure out what to do about this street sign. And I mean, he fought this and fought this and fought this, but this was the only place this was the right lens selection, it's the right, everything was perfect except this damn street sign. And so he said, "I just don't know what to do." And his assistant said, "Would you spend 100 bucks "to fix this problem?" And he said, "Absolutely." And he said, "I'll be right back." And the guy left and made a phone call, came right back and he said, "Who'd you call?" He says, "My uncle, he's a welder." So they came back with a cutting torch, they cut the sign off level with the sidewalk, took the sign out, he shot the picture, then he welded it back in place before anybody knew they did it. How great is that, right? Problem solving 101, that's what we do. (laughs) Huh?
Content aware, that's right, that is perfect, that's a perfect use of content aware. Hey, you gotta get the shot sometimes. Okay, so now this is a theme, now I get it. Okay, so this is a variation on the theme. Nicely done, great angle, good like, I like everything about it, I wish she wasn't quite as bright, that's all. And if you pull down the exposure and the highlights, if we went in Develop module, you might be able to bring the highlights down, lemme just take a quick peek. You can probably get down there. You can probably get pretty close, I might pop those shadows back up a bit. But I like it, I would actually, probably go into Vibrance and watch my sky get bluer with just a little hit of Vibrance too. So I would go like that so now my picture would go, full back, from, oops, from that to that. I think, for me, that's more in my style maybe, but great, great use of light, great location, great color, great pose, nicely done. This is great, seeing all this good work. This is terrific. Whose idea was this? (laughs) My first thought is, "Boy, I would love to see "a little bit more separation from the hat." I think that's probably a pretty cool hat, I'm just losing some of it. I like it, I think traditionally, most photographers would have lit the face from the light going around the face a little bit further away, coming back across the face a bit, but I don't have any problem with the light. I think he's got a very interesting nose. I just think it looks good. I'll bet he loved this, this is a picture that the client probably liked a lot. But I would probably, for me, I probably would've opened up the background just a tiny bit or give it just a hit of light near the hat and I might move my main light around just a little further to the right. But other than that, I like it a lot. Simple is always good. Simplicity will almost never be a bad decision on your part. I think my first reaction is I'm not a fan of the pants on the bottom, so I think I would just crop 'em out. I would just get rid of the pants. I don't think that lower quarter is adding anything anyway. I would just take it off, just crop it out of that. I think her face looks pretty good. I think the light quality looks pretty good. I wish she had bigger eyelashes. (laughs) No, I'm just kidding. She's got some big ol' mondo eyelashes on there, they're great. I think I like to see women wear big ol' honkin' eyelashes on the top and the bottom Let's see what happens on the bottom if I... Just kidding, that would look pretty rough, wouldn't it? I think her eyes are clear and bright and she's got a nice smile and I'll bet she just loved it, ya know? I think the background's handled pretty well. It looks like it's probably a little bit of a light, thin yellow gel back there on a light background to start with, which comes back to a pastel. If you want deep, rich color from your gels, there's a trick, and the trick is, before you introduce the color to the background, this is if you're wanting pure, rich, deep color. Before you introduce color to a background, the background has to appear as black. So what that means is, my main light can't spill onto the background, I can't have any accent light spilling onto the background, I can't have any daylight spilling onto the background. The background has to appear black. Turn on all the lights you're gonna use except the background light and check it. And if it's black, then you're on your way. Then you can turn on the flash, turn on your color, and you'll get nothing but pure return of color without any contamination of white light. The contamination of white light creates the pastel, 'kay? Just a little tip, and by the way, if you wanna measure that, how you know it goes black, if it reflectively is three stops below whatever you're shooting with, whatever your aperture is, if you're minus three stops, you're in black, no detail. Make sense kind of? Well I like this and I'd like to see more of it. It appears to be a little soft. It's not real soft, but it is a little soft. But I'd sure like to see more going on here. I think that I like good, deep, dramatic pictures a lot, but I do wanna see more of the story. I'm not seeing enough of the story to make a judgment call on it. And then also, in terms of post-production, I would recommend to the photographer the two light areas that are just under her pupils, right there on the bottom of her eyelids, bottom of her eye, what would that be called? Eye socket, the eye hole, (laughs) that's good, crack myself up. You see what I'm talking about, those two bright areas? Pull those down, you gotta burn those down a little bit I think, 'cause I think if you squint your eye, squint, squint, squint, squint, squint, squint and look at it, that's where your eye goes. That's where your eye goes, yes ma'am?
Tony, a question had come in from Kamera with a K, who had asked, "What's the difference between the image "where the musician was sort of lost in black "and it was okay to the photo where the subject "was smoking with a cigarette and you wanted "to see more detail on the hand," and the person says, "I'm confused," so similar to this image, what's the acceptable amount of to dark, I guess?
With the musician, the guy with the sunglasses, we're talking about?
I think so, yeah.
Is that the one? Yeah, well, I could see full information in the subject. With the guy with the cigarette in his hand, I couldn't see any of the information in his face. I could just see this and all of the left edge of the, the entire left half of the picture was all gone. There was nothing, I had no information to go on. It didn't tell me anything about his shape or what he was wearing, I didn't see anything. With the musician, I could see lots of stuff. So for me, this goes hand in hand with the one with the cigarette. There's just not enough information for me to be able to know what's going on in this picture. I mean, I just would like to see more going on. Maybe there's nothing more to, maybe I'm seeing all there is that's going on. And that's okay too, but I would just wanna see a little bit more information, that's all. And that might be a personal thing. You might look at that one with the cigarette and say, "This is perfect," I mean, somebody liked it, they took it, so that's okay. I just think it needs more information. This has got great information, but it's a little under-exposed, it's a little under. So in this case, the high key, the use of high key is terrific, it's good and it's bright and it's clean. I love what's going on in the hair right here. This looks terrific, this looks terrific, this all looks terrific, but the faces are down a bit and so I think you've got to bring those up. And I don't think I'm zoomed in anymore, so, yeah. So be careful on your framing. And I say framing as opposed to cropping. Be careful on your framing and in this case, your framing is going right through that ring on her neck, and I think you've gotta give it some space for that. Watch the details, there's a little technique that I've been teaching for years. Basically, at the very end of your shoot, right before, or after you've set up and your about to pull the trigger and go to work, just before you shoot, just let your eye float to all four corners of your frames and double check all four corners again for something that might draw your attention away, like the kid on the right, the earlobe now is getting my attention and I can't stop looking at the earlobe. Now, if I could see all of the ear, the earlobe probably wouldn't be a problem, but because it's the one light thing on the far right edge and it's in the middle of the frame, it just keeps drawing my eye over there. There's a lot of love going on in this picture, and I'm sure this family loved this picture, but look at the, I just think that the faces are down a bit and I think that we could probably, again, I don't wanna pop that highlight too much, but I think you could probably pop up the shadows a bit, maybe even up in here somewhere and get away with that pretty easily and give it just a little hit, tiny hit, maybe, of Vibrance, something like that. So we go from there to there. It's a personal thing, though, I get it. Everything about this is personal. As I said, it's funny that I say this, I find myself saying this a lot, that photography truly is the subjective use of an objective craft, we all have such opinions about it. And I look at some of the street photographer, photographer's work and I just don't get it. I just don't get it, then I look at Cartier Bresson and boy, do I get it, ya know? It's just like, "Oh my gosh, I love this stuff." And I look at somebody else's and I just don't get it. It's just so funny, 'cause our tastes are so weird. You either get it or you don't. Yes sir?
I'm just kinda curious what you feel about the boy's neck looking a little bit elongated there as well?
Yeah, I didn't notice it and it didn't bother me. I don't know that it's something that really concerns me. If it concerned you and you were shooting this, I would probably then change, swap positions between he and his sister, maybe that would fix it. But I hadn't even really noticed it. And it didn't scream at me as an issue. I like this, there's a big flour movement out and about and there's a lot of people that are doing a lot of shots of lots of people, in lots of positions, with lots of flour in the air, lots of this. And it's not new, don't let anybody kid ya and say, "This is a new trend," no it's not. I saw Lois Greenfield, who is a fabulous dance photographer in New York City, one of the best in the world. She was a former dancer and became a photographer and all she photographs are dancers. And if you ever wanna look at her work, find her. Lois Greenfield, man, she's talented. She's got books and calendars called "Breaking Bounds," and she freezes dancers in the air like nobody I've ever seen, and she did one of a dancer 20 years ago with flour and chalk, I think. Anyway, it's been out there and it's been around for a while. So when you do it, you've gotta do it really, really well if you're gonna get people's attention, especially someone that's judging or if you entered a competition, because it's not quite as unique as it used to be. We're seeing it a lot now. So I like this and I think it's done well. What I do like about this is I like, I think you've got good light quality on the subject, but we did lose part of the most important part of his face. I think we've lost... We've got his head kinda lit up, his nose and hair, but we've lost completely all this information in here, so I'm not sure that that's a horrific issue, but it is something to at least be aware of. Let me see here. Oh, okay, I see, it's, can I get 21? Yeah. Yeah, I just think our lighting just missed, and you can see the hard edge shadow on his shoulder from, his head's creating the shadow on his shoulder, so light's coming across here and his head is blocking the light from reaching it. So in that case, the light's just maybe a little far around. That's all, bring it back a little bit. I bet he liked it, I bet he liked it a lot. Okay, let's do some more stuff. Boy, do I like that. My first stab at that is I like that a lot. And it's not something that I normally would like, but there's something about it that just kinda draws me in. I think it's a very commercial-looking portrait that could sell Scotch or furniture or Dos Equis or, you know, insert brand here, or a cigar or a cigarette. Yeah, his hand would be easy to drop a cigarette in and put a little smoke on it. Ya know, there are smoke brushes, you guys probably know about those. You can download series of smoke brushes and paint 'em in where you need the smoke, ya know. But I like this picture a lot. I don't know what I would say to improve this. I'd wanna spend some time with this and really look at it. But congratulations, this is a really well done portrait, I think, and yet it does break some good rules. Like there's no light in the eyes much, but it kinda doesn't matter if you like the picture enough, right? And that's the way this works, as long as you like it enough, you can justify anything. I can justify away all kinds of mistakes if I like it enough, I like this a lot. Yeah?
So Tony, to that point, something we talk about a lot, what do you think is more important? The technical perfection or sort of a connection and that you get with a portrait, if you get that? Like in this picture, what I'm hearing you say is like, "I see that connection."
I totally get it. Yeah, I totally get this picture and some of you might look at it and say, "I don't get it at all, what's Tony like about this?" I don't know, how do you explain taste? How do you explain what you do and do not like? It's kinda hard. I do know that for me, the difference between the technical and the creative, in this kind of a situation, is first and foremost, if you go back to the notes I read earlier, is there high impact? Does it grab me and make me look at it? And it does. Is it grabbing me and making me look at it from a technical standpoint or from a creative? Well, in this one, kind of both. I think the degree of ratio between highlight and shadow could not be more perfect for this picture. I'm seeing great detail in the shadows, I'm seeing great detail in his eyes. Man, I like this picture a lot. I just like it. Sorry. So yeah, I'm a big fan of this picture. So whoever did it, man, congratulations. Wish I had done it, that's kinda my best vote of confidence is I wish it was mine.
That is pretty...
That's about as high as I get to. My favorite accolade is, about someone, if I talk about someone like Lois or Nick Vedros or someone, my response is, "Man, can they a picture. "Man, can she take a picture. "Man can he take a picture." I haven't seen all of your work, but I've seen Julia's work. Man, can she take a picture, go to her site. That girl's shootin' some stuff right now. And I know she said, "I know, thanks to CreativeLive," and that's great, but boy, are you doing some great work. As are so many and ya know, the good new is, I don't think we've had a time in our history where there were more great photographers alive at one time. Everybody that's, some of the best photographers there's ever been are here right now. They're still alive and they're still shooting and they'll take your calls. You can call 'em and talk to 'em. There aren't a lot of butt heads at the top of the food chain in photography. There's just not. Most of the butt heads get weeded out. So if you call most of these big-name photographers, they'll answer their phone, they'll talk to ya. You have questions? Call 'em. Send 'em a note, you'll be amazed that they'll take your call, they wanna help. Nicely done, clearly. Fun picture, fun, fun picture. (laughs) I'm looking hard to find the the third light and I don't think we have a third light. I think it was pretty much done with two, and they're twin 45s from behind, coming forward and brought, well, there might be a third on the mask of the face, but I'm not seeing any shadow from that anywhere. Oh, yes there is, sorry, under the nose there's a little shadow. So yeah, there is a third light and it's not connected to the other two. So yeah, three lights, and I like it and it's fun and Mom's gonna love it and eat it up. I would be a little cautious about the shadows on the ground from the legs. Because of the harshness, sorry, the sharpness of the shadows, my guess is that that might be speed lights or some other small sources, and as a result of that, it does make the light kinda specular, makes the shadow sharp, but it also makes the light sort of specular, which is why the light on the shoulders and the top part of the arm's pretty bright. It's probably an element of size relative to distance that's causing that bit of a look. But what a great expression. I'll guarantee a mom loves this one. Okay, let's see what we got next coming up here. That's a beauty, now see, here we go. This is one where I'm losing some detail on the right side and it's okay, I think, ahh! How do I justify that? How do you explain when you like something? How do you define that? Yeah, but there's no detail. Yeah, but it's okay, I think there is enough information. If I couldn't see the dress at all on the back side and I couldn't see her left shoulder or her left arm hanging down, then I probably would have a problem with it. But I can see it and I can see it enough and I don't have to have separation from the right side top of her hair, I can see her hair, I know what her hair looks like, don't you think? It would be too easy to put a light back there and almost cliche to put another light back there, I think.
I think so, and it's also interesting is that, in this image and that even though there's no light, it... Your eye knows what the shape is.
Your eye knows what the hair looks like.
I'm swept right into it. So we get it.
Yeah, even though.
And that's the part that you can't, you can't teach that part when you're trying to read images for others, they have to find it for themselves. And again, you'll either look at a picture and you'll get it or you won't get it, you'll like it or you won't like it. It speaks to you or it doesn't speak to you, ya know? There's a big trend right now, a lot of photographers are photographing athletes, basketball players, baseball players, hockey players, all kinds of athletes extruding them off of, extracting them off of backgrounds and dropping 'em over these great venues and they're doing killer stuff and they're putting lightning bolts and bringing in gritty, HDR-looking stuff and they're bringing... and I just don't, it doesn't speak to me at all. And they're getting big scores and lots of awards and people are talking about it and it's getting lots of hits, but it's not at all for me. I kinda like the quiet whisper of that. Gimme a quiet, soft image and I seem to relate better to that. Yes ma'am?
Tony, just wanted to read an interesting comment in the chat room from Cool Crew, who says, "Tony, it appears "that what you're looking for is the story," which is one of the things on your list.
It's number three on my list, I think.
"If it's an attitude "like this, made by body language or facial expression, "you are seeing all you need to get the whole story. "If there's not enough story, it's just not a good picture "and there's no reason to take it," so I thought that was a really great insight as well.
I think that's a very interesting way to word it, so thanks for sharing that with us. I think, and thanks for you reading it, taking the time to let us have that.
We all need those little nuggets, don't we? And sometimes it's the little visual nuggets that we need. Jamie Jazell always called it, he said, "Photography's made up of light, color, and gesture." You gotta have the gesture, find the gesture. Sometimes the gesture might be the story, ya know? For me, it was a picture in Mexico that I had great light, great color, and I couldn't figure out where the gesture was until I found this pair of underwear hanging on the telephone lines in the background. Oh, there we go, there's our gesture. (laughs) Sometimes you just need some more information, ya know? I think this is a lovely portrait. I think she looks fantastic, I'm sure she's gonna love it, I think it's handled very, very well. I don't see any big problem here at all except the cropping. And the cropping, you gotta do something. Either let the arm show or don't let the arm show, but you can't let half the arm show. That's my only real comment on this that would maybe improve it. And I will say one other thing that I would choose to do on this, in the world of post-production, there's a couple of things I would do, I would go ahead and fix the two wrinkle spots right here on her arm, that's a pretty easy clone and a pretty easy fix. I would make those two wrinkles go away. I would soften that one right there a bit on her arm, and then I would remove this hair right under her ear. That's gotta go, and those are pretty fast and easy fixes. I think all together there, you're a three-minute edit. You can make all that happen in three minutes and you can move on, so if you can do that and edit that fast, it's a cakewalk, you've got it. You're not making money editing, folks. You're making money shooting, don't get bogged down with the edits, unless you're charging your client for editing time. And most of you aren't in portraits. Commercial guys, as soon as we transitioned into digital, commercial guys added a new line on their budget and bid sheets, which is digital file prep, retouching, organization, and they added a fee. Portrait guys never figured that out. They never added a thing, you guys just now, now you're just over-retouching everything and not charging, not being paid for it, and now you're spending six hours in post-production work on the session. So it's hard to get paid for it. I think you could get paid for it if you asked for it, but most people won't ask for it. Any other comments about that anybody have? Or any questions? We catch light from the eyes, eyes are a little bright, they've been worked a little bit too much, so just be aware, yeah. Well, I think it's a real fun picture. I think it's, it could be the resolution, but it does look like it's a little soft and there's a... Sorry, it isn't soft. (laughs) That was me, that was my screen, it just wasn't fully rendered yet, I guess. That's what it was, yeah, no, it's plenty sharp. I like it a lot, I think that this is another one of those where I could sure use, I could use a little bit of less coolness to the image and maybe a little more light control for the legs. The legs are pretty flat and lit and big-looking because there's so much light on the legs. Give me a little bit of shadow from a leg and it goes a long way in creating depth and shape and form and dimension. And I'm losing depth and form and dimension on the picture. I like the picture a lot, but I think it could be improved if we had just a little bit more directional light, I guess that's the way to put it. Great idea, and I'm sure she loved it. I'm sure if this was for her honey, he probably loved it too. So in this one, unlike the smoking guy's profile, lighting the cigarette, here I can at least see the shoulder, the near shoulder, and I can see the near ear. (laughs) The near ear. And I can see detail in that ear and I can see detail in his beard on this side of his head, so for that, this one gets good kudos and it gets a thumbs up over the other one that just blocked up a little bit. This is not quite as blocked up. Probably just as impactful. I'm guessing he might be playing a harmonica, the way his hands are positioned to hold a harmonica, I think. So that would be my guess and if that's the case, then his family knows exactly what you did and this is a portrait of him and it's about him and they're gonna love it. And that's our job, so if you can pull that off, guys, that's the way to do it. So, I think somebody pulled it off quite nicely here. The light quality looks great, light direction is terrific. Nicely done, nicely done. Well, my first comment is... I guess my first comment is I would try to wanna get the skin tones a little closer together. I know they're different backgrounds and heritage in their family, in their bloodlines perhaps, but I would try to get the skin tones a little bit closer, 'cause it's a stark difference between her tummy and his. And so I think it might behoove me to try to bring those closer together just a little bit. The pose is fine, this is something that clearly they do in their dance or in their show that they do, and I think that's fine, but I'm not sure that it's appropriate to do it in the studio while sitting in a chair, I'm not sure that it's... It's just a little bit too staged for me. I would almost rather see him doing something with her without the chair, with him holding her. I'm not a big fan of... Her arm, I think, needs a little bit of better exposure on the lower part of her hand, I think it needs some exposure. But I think for me, the biggest thing is the skin tone. I'd pull the skin tones together.
So is this the case of the woman's chest being light drop?
M-hmm (affirmative) Yeah, well, yes and no. Look at the direction of light, look at the shadows under his feet, from his legs. So you can see that the light is coming from the left, right? And it wouldn't be, if she were sitting straight up, it wouldn't be a light trap, but because she's laid back, it is a little bit of a light trap. So the exposure on her tummy is a full stop, stop and a half brighter than the exposure on her face. So I would try to bring those closer together just a bit. What other questions or comments have come in that we should cover on this topic? Anything from anybody?
I think, a question I have for you is just where should people go, what should they do to get their work critiqued and again, coming back to the importance of that?
Well, ya know, all the professional, in the portrait world, all the professional photo associations have print competitions and print judgings and often, print critiques. In Dallas, Texas, we have the Dallas PP of A, the DPPA group and they have a print competition every month and so the judges look at work every month and talk to the students about the work. They do, probably twice a year, they have a full blown day, a day long just critiques and prep so it kinda helps up-and-coming photographers get ready to start entering competitions to win awards, national awards and degrees and different thing. So I think getting involved in the local community's really critically important. Ya know, if you're gonna be an amateur at this and you're gonna keep this as a hobby and keep it on the side, I think that's fine, but at least get involved in some of the meetup groups. But if you're gonna do this as a living and this is something that you're really gonna get serious about and go after, then start going to the, find your local photo associations that are professional associations, like PP of A related, or if it's commercial, like ASMP and some of the other large groups that are national groups that have local and regional spinoffs. Those things are really helpful and those people are helpful. They'll help ya, they wanna see you succeed, ya know? They wanna see you come up and do things the right way. And I think it's pretty helpful.
But I think it's important too, if you have the wherewithal to do it, if you can do it, find someone in your community that you really, really, really respect their work and talk to 'em about being a mentor for ya and try to spend time with 'em. I've got two photographers that I'm mentoring right now and we talk pretty regularly, we have a Skype call once a month, they send me work all the time to critique and we just, we have a relationship now, and we've all become friends, but find people that's like-mindedness, ya know, that's like minded to you and the direction that you wanna go and go find them and ask them about, "Hey, can I go hang out on a shoot with you next week? "I'm available next Wednesday and Thursday, "I have nothing to do, can I come "hold a light stand for you?" Whatever. You'll be surprised at the reception and how warmly you'll be received, honestly, 'kay?
Thank you, Tony,
Thank you, Miss Kenna. Thank you so much, I do have one final question for you.
As we've gone through learning all about the whats, the whys, the hows of all of these light-shaping tools, how would you recommend, if somebody bought this class right now, that they should use it? What would your recommendation be for sort of taking the steps to actually having it all be integrated in?
So, first things first is as with any workshop, if you don't use the information, or at least try the information within two weeks, the information goes away. So if you're not gonna purchase the class, then you've got two weeks or you're gonna lose all the stuff that we've talked about. If you do purchase the class, then at least it's gonna be available to you a little bit more often. I would recommend highly that you get some kind of... I've got, I showed yesterday morning, my little statue head called Headley P. Delwood. Headley is invaluable for me for testing. Find a Headley, find a head. Everybody I know that's a top photographer out there has some kind of a wig holder or some kind of a... Even a little statue, go to a thrift shop or garage sale and find a little statutes with a little head. Anything that you can pose and light on will help you a lot, because you'll start learning and understanding the relationship between light and shadow and textures and all of that, if you can practice on something and your spouse, significant other, pet, child, whatever, is gonna get real tired of posing after about a week. So they just aren't gonna do it anymore. So get something that won't talk back to you, that just sits there and bounces light. So that's what I would recommend. But you've gotta get in the studio and you gotta work. You gotta practice and you gotta hone your skills. And if you do, you'll be so much happier, you'll have so much more confidence. You can start adding zeros to your invoices, you can succeed at this and you can do well at this, but you have to, you've gotta pull off the pictures, the pictures have to be there and that's first and foremost. You can be the nicest guy in town, but if you can't take a picture, they wanna take you to lunch, but they're not gonna hire ya.