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High School Senior Portrait

By nbrooks  
I was hired to shoot a graduating high school student's portrait. She and her parents seemed to like the pictures well enough, but I would appreciate more discerning critiques.

Tags: Portraits and people

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This photo is here for critique. Please only comment constructively and with suggestions on how to improve it.


banehawi Plus
13 1.8k 3881 Canada
7 Jul 2009 10:25PM
Hi Neil,

As a casual, available light shot its quite good, - and I can see why they were happy with them.

Its quite soft, - partly due to your lens if it was set at f/1.8, - using say f/5.6 to f/8 would give a sharper result.

Ive sharpened the image in a mod, and cropped so its features her face more, - placing her eyes closer to a third down the image. try to include a light behind you to cause catch lights in her eyes, - there may be some here but theyre faint, - or use you flash at a very low setting to make catch lights. Ive added a couple in Photoshop in the mod.

Hope this is helpful,



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NEWMANP 10 1.6k 574 United Kingdom
7 Jul 2009 10:29PM
hello Neil,
nice portrait of the girl, nice even lighting on the face , a pretty good expression and full of vitality.

that said, there are a few little issues that would help you when you are taking pictures like this to sell to the client.

the first thing i noticed after looking at the girls face was that the model was positioned in an area of high contrast dappled lighting falling in pools over the subject and the background. i suspect that light was falling through trees or similar causing patches that would be difficult to expose for, typical are the areas above the belt and in the background behind the shoulders, these are a bit distracting.

i would usually include all of the models arms and give sufficient space around the subject to permit a more satisfactory crop later. as it stands the limbs look disjointed and awkward. when its taken its too late, better to have the edit / crop facility.

lastly i feel that the flesh tones are possibly slightly overexposed (which also adds to the highlight problem) and noticing that you used a jpeg. using raw data is pretty fundemental when doing commercial work as it provides the latitude and lossless capability of the master image file and allows for any adjustments to be made post camera. weddings and white dresses for example can be a nightmare to control on jpeg.

hope you dont think this too harsh, what im trying to say is if ypou are aiming for commercial work you need to give your self every advantage to provide the best possible result when you hit the computer,

good look and best regards,
8 Jul 2009 12:47AM
Hey Phil and Willie... Thanks for the help. Truth be told, I did take this photo in RAW (but I can't upload a RAW file can I?) I think all the details are there but this was the final version I gave to the client. I purposely softened the skin tones for, what I thought, was a more pleasing skin rendering (the photo was taken at f6.7). I do see what you mean about the pools of light behind her being distracting, I'll take that into consideration for next time. Whew, portraits are tough. I also see what you mean about the arms too. They look unnatural in that position.
glazzaro 13 70 23 United States
8 Jul 2009 1:29AM
Could shot, nice detail, but would suggest Phil is in the right track as far as what can be done better. The skin and the teeth seem t have lost highlights, this can be recovered in the RAW file or by editing and darkening the highlights. I noticed you have a Nikon D300, you might want to check and make sure that "Active Delighting" is not set to high as this could also produce the same effect.

In addition I would have considered using flash, manual mode, and setting the power to 1/64th or 128th, just enough to bring out more color and detail in the eyes. Since this is a controlled scene and the light source seems adequate I would also have set the Aperture to F9 for this shot. Hope this helps.

8 Jul 2009 7:57PM
Greg, I really like your mod. Motion blur in the background is genius!

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