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Fade to Black

By markst33    
Got made redundant after 6 years and got a few quid for it too so I decided to treat myself to a private workshop for studio portrait photography with a Professional photographer who we had in the club last year. At the time I really liked his work, as it was different and imaginative. Michael Hayes from Portmarnock is his name if you want to have a look at some of his stuff. The following is an example of the kind of awards he has racked up :

2015 IPPA Winner Human Form Portfolio of the year Award
2015 IPPA Winner Human Form Single Images of the year award
2015 IPPA Winner Contemporary Portrait Single Image of the year Award
2015 IPPA Winner Contemporary Portrait Portfolio Award.
2015 IPPA Winner Fashion Single of the year Award.
2015 IPPA Winner Fashion Portfolio of the yeas Award
2015 IPPA Winner Classical Portrait best single image Award
2014 Master Photographers Association, Fashion Art Portrait Award.
2014 Master Photographers Association The Prestigious Judges Choice.
2014 IPPA Contemporary Portrait Portfolio.
2014 IPPA Silver, Classical Wedding
2014 IPPA Bodyform Portfolio and Single image.
2013 IPPA Fashion / Bodyform Photographer of the Year.

I told him that pretty much all my studio experience involved using only a softbox and I wanted to learn how to use beauty dishes, grids and learn about light shaping so we did 90 mins theory and 90 mins shooting with a model.

One of the main things I took away was the use of Dodging and Burning which is something I have never done with my portrait photography before. Thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with lots to take in and learnt a lot about using and playing with light.

Tags: Portrait Models Studio People Black and white Kiara

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mrswoolybill Plus
16 3.6k 2575 United Kingdom
16 Sep 2016 8:12AM
I shall go and do a bit of research on Michael Hayes. (I just love saying that for Google...)

I shall be very interested to see what the studio photographers such as John Duder say here. I like a lot about this, particularly the use of light to mould the face against darkness. And those eyes are fabulous. A few details jar though. And these are just details -

There's a blob of light catching her nose just above her right nostril (left to us). It makes her nose look a bit lop-sided.

The hands - hands close to a face are tricky, they can frame the face, equally they can act as a barrier, and they can distract. Here what doesn't work is the rigidity of all those fingers, they look awkward. All the fingers lying gently flat against the hand would give a more relaxed, comfortable feel. One forefinger pointing up with the other fingers relaxed, that could give an edgier feel. Or the hands viewed side-on, with the fingers extended but viewed in profile to give a simpler shape...

Finally the chin / side of mouth, on the right side of her face again (left to us). There's a blotchiness which I think is a combination of the lighting and your subsequent work?

I use the dodge and burn tools a lot, but always at very low exposure settings, usually 3%, sometimes 4%, rarely any higher. Dodging on darker areas I find that it usually works best to set to highlights, which will often extract detail more gently, without a flattening effect.

I'd really like to see the colour version of this.
paulbroad 15 131 1294 United Kingdom
16 Sep 2016 8:40AM
The initial effect is very nice with a high quality mono and striking model. The lighting may be a touch too severe for my taste overall, the nose blob as mentioned by Moira for example, but it does strengthen the impact.

Like the composition. Some will want portrait format, but then it becomes more run of the mill.

There is slight burn out in the hair, but only a tiny area.

The following is not a criticism of your professional. I have not looked him up. Remember, many photography associations can be joined by anyone providing you put up the membership fee. People then use the association letters after there name. The only letters that actually mean anything are those arrived at by examination.


dudler Plus
19 2.0k 1974 England
16 Sep 2016 9:35AM
First, all learning is good. Booking an intensive 1:1 session is a brave way to go - I hope MH provided notes as well, or that you took plenty!

Lots of good stuff above: some of Moira's points are more about the pose than the photography, but as photographers, it's our job to spot and correct them as we go in the session. They aren't the main thing here, but it's a sort of third-order consideration, after knowing how to use your camera without fluffing things, and mastering your lights.

Also, I agree with Paul that the first impact is very positive, and that landscape draws the eye in a way that portrait wouldn't, in this case.

There are some pretty good books on lighting around, but most sort of tell you how it's done, with a diagram rather than pictures of the lightign setup. The reality can be more complex and subtle, and that's where hands-on experience really counts.

Using 'only a softbox' underrates what you can do with one light, I think. God gets by with one sun, and if we can't do the same as photogrpahers, it speaks badly of us. But this isn't to deny the usefulness of adding a second light (or more) for specific purposes.

A useful thing to do is to look at pictures and work out what the lighting is (that way, you can set about recreating setups that you like). You can tell, reasonably well, from looking at where the shadows are, and at the catchlights in the eyes.

Here, there's one reasonably small light in front (I'm guessing a beauty dish) and a second light above and behind the model on the left of the frame, possibly a small beauty dish, maybe a reflector with a honeycomb grid. (This is where the subtleties come in: different brands will give slightly different effects and qualities, and the real experts rave about them. I'm generally happy with something that gives a broadly similar effect, so that my results are different from what I'm copying!)

Dodging and burning: they're my bread and butter in editing, as they are in darkroom printing! However, you have, I think, used them for pictorial effect in a way I don't, introducing a distinctly artificial look in places, as if the light is dappled. Am I right? If so, you may have a slightly 'Marmite' element in the way you worked this. (I'd use dodging to brighten eyes, compensate for having underlit the face or part of it; burning to strengthen makeup on the eyes - and so on.) I suppose this amounts to 'don't overdo it'!

Related to this, I'd suggest that going totally black is not always the perfect idea. A hint of folds of cloth may be good (I like this, because my black cloth background has folds in it anyway!) Consider having a little bit of suggestive detail behind, somethign that gives a boost to the mood and emotions of the shot, if you can (given your PS prowess, this perhaps need not be there in reality...)

Somewhere in my darkroom, there lurks a copy of Nigel Holmes' 'Pink Pocket Poser' - a guide for glamour photographers in cartoon form. It's actually fantastic for any tog, as it's lightweight and amusing (Holmes draws as wel las he shoots, and he's funny), and he illustrates things like the hands problem really well (as I recall, with a bunch of bananas for clasped hands). Long out of print, but if you see a copy (it's pink, and about five inches by four), grab it and don't let go.

I know one tog, married to a model I've photographed a few times, who is incredibly inventive and persistent in making his own economy light modifiers, and using them with cheap flashguns. He achieves wonders, aided by his current househusband status. He speaks highly of THIS website, and of THIS one... (I'll add that using flashguns without modelling lights makes the process far more difficult, as you can't see what is happening before you take the shot, though that's not fatal with digital in the way that it was with film!
banehawi Plus
18 2.9k 4336 Canada
16 Sep 2016 1:49PM
Its very nice. Dodging and Burning have been essential techniques since the very beginning of photography, and are often forgotten, but as is seen here are very effective.


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