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Light and Shadow

By markst33    
Experimenting with my latest purchase. An SB-600 speedlight used off camera. Got Sean to stand on his bed after hanging the darkest bedclothes I could find off the curtain rail as a backdrop.

Placed the flash to the side of him on a tripod and hung a piece of toilet roll over it to diffuse the light a bit.

Then switched off the light in his bedroom and took the shot in complete darkness. Bit of work in PS with levels and exposure and sharpening.

Opinions, critiques and suggestions very welcome.

Mark S.

Tags: General Darkness Black and white Speedlight Sb-600 Portraits and people Flash and lighting Experimentation

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stevesloan 11 9 Scotland
22 Feb 2012 1:58PM
This works well - nicely thoughtout
pamelajean Plus
15 1.6k 2227 United Kingdom
22 Feb 2012 2:46PM
This is very effective, Mark, and it's good to experiment. Excellent detail and perfect background.
I like the strong contrast and the deep shadow, but the small shadow over the eye and on the cheek spoil it for me because the eyes are important in any portrait, and the one eye that we have here is obscured. I'm not sure what caused it, but I feel sure that Sean's eyes are as beautiful as his hair.
You have quite a bit of blank space either side, so I think that portrait format might have worked better.
I have done a modification where I cropped to eliminate the T-shirt (it's a shame that the right side of it isn't in shadow), took some off either side, then added a bit of canvas to the top. I also removed a few odd white spots. I didn't try to brighten the eye, I don't think there is any detail left there.
banehawi Plus
17 2.5k 4253 Canada
22 Feb 2012 3:05PM
A successful effort, and one you can learn from.

Pamela has put her finger on the major issue that can be addressed by setting this up again, BUT placing the flash a little more towards the camera, and using another prop, - a white card, reflect some light back towards the eye.

The reason it looks as it it is simply because the eye socket is deep, and the light is missing one side of it, so get some light reflected into it and you have a very nice image.


markst33 12 75 2 Ireland
22 Feb 2012 3:19PM
Thanks Pamela and Willie. I will have another go at it. Its going to cost me a fortune in sweets to convince him to model for me again Tongue
Sooty_1 11 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
22 Feb 2012 4:48PM
You don't need a dark background if no light falls on it. Here you have aimed the flash sideways at the boy's face, so none will fall behind him, especially if you separate him from the background by several feet. You can also zoom the flash to a longer focal length to lessen light spread.
Here you can just use a small reflector to bounce a little back into the eye socket without changing your initial setup.

markst33 12 75 2 Ireland
22 Feb 2012 8:32PM
Thanks Nick
DRicherby 12 269 726 United Kingdom
22 Feb 2012 9:10PM
It's certainly a dramatic portrait and, I think, an effective one. There are good suggestions already about tweaking the lighting to avoid the shadows on the lit side of the face so I'll just make a couple of comments about processing.

To me, it looks a little over-sharpened, which shows up as pixellation on the collar, lips and hair. Sharpening is usually best done with unsharp mask with a radius of less than one and strength high enough to have an effect but not so high as to cause pixellation and harsh edges. Sometimes, you end up with areas that seem to get over-sharpened whatever you do. A simple way to get round that is to select those areas, invert and feather the selection and then sharpen; a more sophisticated way is to create a duplicate layer, sharpen that and then use a soft, low opacity eraser to partially erase the over-sharpened parts and let the original image start to show through, until you've corrected the problem.

It also looks like there might be a little posterization (colour boundaries turning blocky), for example around where the shadows almost meet at the Adam's apple -- but that might just be this laptop, on which I'm not really used to looking at photos. If it's really there, it's probably caused by being a bit rough with the levels and curves adjustments, especially if that was done on an eight-bit file and/or after converting to greyscale. The problem is analogous to blowing up a photo creating blockiness: you don't notice a transition from one shade to the next brighter shade but a big levels/curves adjustment can map that onto a transition from the first shade to one several shades brighter, which you see as a jump in the tones. This is made worse in black and white because, instead of having millions of different colours, you only have a few hundred or a few thousand shades of grey. To avoid posterization, try to get the exposure more or less correct in camera so you don't need to do big adjustments in post-processing.
Ridgeway 14 222 2 Ireland
23 Feb 2012 8:09AM
A loevly composed portrait shot,lighting works well,I think getting some light in the right eye would nail this,,very nice,

paulbroad 13 131 1293 United Kingdom
23 Feb 2012 8:37AM
Very strong and dramatic. You need to emphasise that and there are various possibilities. Crop both sides to a portrait format is one way to go, but, even better, is to dramatically crop right so that the image is just the half face.

Well done.

markst33 12 75 2 Ireland
23 Feb 2012 12:07PM
Thanks a lot guys, very interesting and informative comments.

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