Back Modifications (2)
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Suzi portrait 1

By Mlitwin
Portraiture is an area of photography that I struggle with. I'm never certain how to instruct the subject to stand, where to place their hands, how to turn their head, body and so on. I know that adding some off camera strobes would improve the shot but I would like to focus primarily on the stance of the subject and how I could have instructed them better.

I want to take my portraits from merely "nice" and bring them to "fantastic".

For this shot I used a Canon 40D with a 50mm f.18 lens set to f3.5 at 1/250 shutter ISO 100. Natural light only - Note: The sun had just gone behind a cloud.

Tags: Woman Standing Relaxed Portraits and people Informal

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


Sooty_1 8 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2012 5:44PM
A comfortable enough effort. Suzy doesn't look unhappy or uncomfortable, and with the sun behind a cloud, you don't have harsh shadows to contend with.

If you just crop a tiny bit of the left side, just to move her head off-centre, and maybe warm the colour balance a little, you would just about have it. The shade has caused a slight blue tinge, and warming the balance would address this and make her skin look slightly healthier. I would suggest a blip of fill-flash to liven the eyes too...that would give her a twinkle, which adds character.

Pose and setting is fine, as is exposure. It all looks slightly soft, but I think this is due to resizing and upload rather than settings used or technique.


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banehawi Plus
14 1.8k 3893 Canada
23 Sep 2012 7:56PM
Not a lot wrong as Nick says Michael.

Ive uploaded a mod with the colour temp a little warmer, skin tone adjusted, sharpened, catch-lights in her eyes, and re framed to place her off centre.

Shoot in RAW for complete control over colour temperature/white balance. For example, you could use her white shirt as a target reference in RAW and it would provide an accurate colour temp. Auto WB and JPEG leave little room for maneuvering.

I find her face very slightly over exposed, - not burned out, but just a little over so you miss some shadow and depth.

Consider popping up your flash, it will provide nice catch-lights in the eyes. Aperture priority, and depending on the light, f/5.6 to f/8 is a good place to be for portraits. The 50mm is good for head and shoulders shots, so you can get a little closer. Eye contact with the camera is important, and its working here.

I agree with Nick re sharpness, - I believe your original is likely sharper than the version here, due to uploading the re sized image while forgetting to first check it for sharpness and adjusting as required. The mod has some sharpening applied.

Hope this helps, and keep practicing.
23 Sep 2012 9:58PM
Thank you very much for the feedback and suggestions. I see what you mean about the white balance. This seems to always be something that I struggle with on portraits. When I start to adjust white balance I second guess it, thinking it looks too warm or too cool. It's only after someone else points it out that I seem to get it. I'll keep working on that. Fortunately, I do shoot in RAW so I can make those adjustments to my hearts content.

Regarding the aperture, I was hoping to blur out the background to give separation to the subject. I was hoping to blur it even more by opening the aperture further but f1.8 failed to produce anything sharp. I often see portraits with a wonderfully blurry background and a tack sharp subject. Then I see in the EXIF data that they shot at f1.8. I just don't understand how they do it.

Regarding the sharpness, I'm afraid you're right on all counts. The image is a little soft to begin with, probably because of the f3.5 aperture, I did not sharpen in post and I even dropped the "clarity" slider a bit in an attempt to smooth the skin tones a bit. Throw on top of that the loss of detail from any processing during upload and there you have it. Next time I'll go for a smaller aperture.

Next time I'll try to pop the on camera flash for some catch lights too.

I've gone back to the original and made some changes based on your suggestions and I'm much happier with the results. I'll post a mod shortly.

Thanks for all your help!
banehawi Plus
14 1.8k 3893 Canada
24 Sep 2012 1:55AM
Heres a link you should spend some time working with. It explains depth of field, apwerture, the interaction between distance from subject, and focal length, and you can input your own camera and lens info and see whats will happen with different settings.

There is nothing wrong with your aperture, - it did blur the background; but enter it and your other details into this online calculator to see what its says.

Also, - use a single focus point ( those red dots) rather than all of them, and place one on the subjects closest eye for a sharp focus.

Heres the link, - let me know if it helps:

paulbroad 10 123 1250 United Kingdom
24 Sep 2012 5:35PM
I think this is a rather nice relaxed portrait of some merrit. I would use a tripod, even at faster shutter speeds, to negate danger of movement and to fix the focal point at wide apertures. Colour balance can be a personal thing in some cases and i might just warm this a touch, but not much although just a touch of flash fill would add a glow.

Nice pose too, relaxed and not too contrived. RAW does give more potential control in processing but I would shoot RAW + LARGE JPG. JPG is often OK and i can shoot several hundred images in a session which takes forever toprocess if only RAW is available. If the JPG is OK, so be it.


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