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The Student

By joycetalks
This image was achieved purely by candlelight and a blacked out room. I constructed the clothing..took me weeks to do this. The model had to sit for a long time to get the right shot. I wanted to get an old masters feel about it. I could have touched her up but chose not to. Not as sharp in places as I would like, but it was a learning experience! Taken on a tripod and a bit of burn applied in editing.

Tags: Portraits and people Flash and lighting

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mrswoolybill Plus
15 3.2k 2527 United Kingdom
6 Mar 2015 10:07AM
Hi, good to see you again!

The site isn't picking up your Exif - camera settings this time. They are important for critique purposes, particularly when as here the circumstances were clearly tricky. Could you add them please, either by editing the upload, or as a comment in this section?

A few thoughts in the absence of the settings information:

This is very gentle, but the profile view somehow lacks intimacy. If you get the chance to try something similar again, try a 3/4 view of the face, it will be more involving, less objective; take us into her thoughts. We then might not see that she is studying sheet music, but there would be greater mystery over what she is reading. It could equally be a love-letter...

You used portrait, I suspect in order to avoid including the actual candle flame in the frame. That's good thinking, but I think there's a bit too much depth, I would go for a crop below the elbow.

Look at the colour and think back - even in candle light did the lady actually look bright yellow? Willie (banehawi) is the white balance guru, I suspect that he will be along here with advice once Canada wakes up...

But for me this cries out for b&w, with perhaps a hint of cool sepia. It would show the light caressing the face... I shall have a go at a modification.
banehawi Plus
18 2.7k 4311 Canada
6 Mar 2015 12:38PM
Yes, it would be useful to see your settings.

Its quite good overall.

Looks like a lot of light for a candle, - suggesting a long exposure perhaps. I would think the single source light might spread less than it does.

The saturation appears high to me, so perhaps tone it down.

Ive uploaded a mod to show what I mean, and its cropped to allow more space on the right.


paulbroad Plus
14 131 1294 United Kingdom
6 Mar 2015 2:17PM
Not a bad effort at all. There is a quality penalty in terms of resolution and, even for candle light, it is very warm. There is no into and we really need it. ISO? I suspect very high, hence the loss of resolution and enhanced colour.

Pull back the saturation a bit. The slight softness is not much of a problem.

pamelajean Plus
16 1.7k 2257 United Kingdom
6 Mar 2015 8:14PM
I think you have done really well, and admire you for the time you took over the costume and the setting up of this shot.

I was very interested in Moira's comments, especially regarding your angle on your subject.

My first thought was that the candle would look good if it were inside the frame, and lighting the front of the sheet of music, instead of the back, which is obviously what candlelight is supposed to do if you want to read something.
Of course, it lights your lady beautifully, but that's not the only consideration.

If you look at this picture of a young man reading by candlelight by Matthias Stom, you will better understand what I mean about the candle and the light on the reading matter. The young man has the book lowered so that the candlelight falls upon it AND him.
And here we see an astronomer by candlelight, leaning over his book and holding the candle above it.

Maybe these will give you some ideas.

Without seeing your Exif Data it's difficult to know if the yellow tone is caused by the white balance that you used. I think the sepia-like tones in the second linked picture above are more in keeping with what you are looking to achieve.
I would also like to see the light a lot more subtle, your lady is very bright.

dudler Plus
18 1.9k 1937 England
7 Mar 2015 1:14PM
There's lots of good stuff above, and I agree with an awful lot of it.

The EXIF data is pertinent, as s whether you used a tripod - I'm used to doing this sort of thing hand-held, and accepting the grain that it leads to, because of extreme ISO settings.

It takes experiment (or extreme talent and luck) to work out angles and how to/whether to include the light source, though this is often picturesque in itself. Playing with white balance matters, too - the colour should be extreme, but you should decide exacly how extreme!

I feel monochrome would lose something essential, but I can see some advantages. What do you reckon?
8 Mar 2015 7:53PM
Thanks for all comments...I have learnt a lot tussling with this shoot. Will include camera setting for my next one. Going to Scotland for some landscapes...interesting!
gajewski 17 10 9 United States
19 Mar 2015 4:55PM
Your diligent work paid off. This does remind me of the old masters. Vermeer comes to mind.

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