Family portraits - help fixing my mistakes!

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by GMan_nz, Jul 16, 2007.

  1. GMan_nz
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    GMan_nz New Member

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    So I've just had my first family experience as the 'official photographer' - and of course all of the 40-odd various inlaws, outlaws and others think that since the camera is bigger than their P&S and looks neat that it automatically takes awesome photos all the time.

    Anyway, I'm not one to try and prove them wrong, but after taking photos off the memory card, I'm a bit disappointed with the results. I now realise that even though I was asked where I wanted to take various photos over the course of a couple of hours, I changed lenses and settings between moving inside and outside, and sun moved quite a bit, and so some of the more important pics are going to need a bit of work. I guess that's what you get when you take sitting portraits with a 70-300 lens with aperture set to 22 and a mixed background of dark trees and light sky.

    I now understand how much concentration is required to take photos when personally involved in an event - but that doesn't fix my pictures. Thus far (CS2) I've only tried to dodge on facial shadow areas (which seems to wash out the subject and make them look sick) and I've also tried duplicating the background layer, adjusting the exposure, and then decreasing the opacity of the new layer - and the result with that didn't really do much for me either. Further fiddling with Shadow/Highlight option

    I know I've made a number of basic errors in setting up and taking the photos (so I'm already beating myself up about that - no assistance requested there!), but any advice on post processing is greatly appreciated.

    Example as taken: [​IMG]

    :(:(:(
  2. ksmattfish
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    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    My suggestion would be the shadow/highlight adjustment to lighten the shadows. You may have to use it selectively, or later apply curves selectively to get the contrast where you want it.

    Or you could convert to BW, which may look better than color in high contrast lighting.

    EDIT: Here's my attempt. Lightened shadows with shadow/highlight adjustment. Then adjusted contrast and color with curves. Added a smidge of saturation (shadow reduction lowered saturation). Selected the edges/corners and darkened using curves on a luminosity blend layer. Ran smart sharpen (50% 0.3 radius) and USM (15% 40 radius) on that same luminosity layer. Flattened.

    [​IMG]
  3. Mike_E
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    Mike_E Well-Known Member

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    Here's a quick fix...

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Not much I could do with a low res file but if you're interested here's what I did...
    1: in cs2, filter/sharpen/unsharp mask/amount 20%/radius 60 pixels-OK
    2: Image/adjustments/Match color/check neutralize OK (you loose some of the golden light with a full neutralize but you can play with this to your liking)
    3: Image/Levels/adjusted the sliders respectively to 10, 1.66, 246 (hold down the Alt key while moving the slider to guage how much you are clipping)
    4: Filter/sharpen/unsharp mask/amount 500, radius 0.02 -OK. Be careful with this last not to go overboard!

    HTH

    mike
  4. sabbath999
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    sabbath999 New Member

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    I like low-tech options, like moving the fill light slider in Picasa about half way... takes about 2 seconds. Looks better to me, costs nothing and takes almost no time whatever.

    [​IMG]
  5. sabbath999
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    sabbath999 New Member

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    BLECH! I just looked at my post on a my home machine, which is properly color corrected and set up... it looks awful. It looked good on the cheap Dell I was using with the $159 LCD... but no so much on my 24 inch iMac.
  6. Sw1tchFX
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    Sw1tchFX New Member

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    People! You need to learn how to use fill flash when shooting!

    The problem with boosting these shadows is noise, the facial areas in the sun will look fine, while the shadow areas will be really chunky. Also, if you print this, it's better to work on the original image, and not an 800 pixel tall, compressed jpeg, if you print these images up here, they'll look horrible, and will lack clarity.
  7. GMan_nz
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    GMan_nz New Member

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    Thanks folks, seems like I was thinking along the same lines - this may be a good opportunity for me to learn a bit more about curves too. I'll definitaly try USM (which I haven't used before) and try to get a feel for how the different radii setting affect the outcome...

    FYI here's the list of things I think I did wrong:
    * Drank too much beer
    * Shooting in bright sunlight, coming side-on from a low angle
    * Used a 70-300mm lens
    * Didn't check settings and ended up on F22
    * Used SB800 flash for fill but being so far from the subject it was ineffective
    * Rushed it

    Things I think I did right
    * Tried talking/joking with the group to keep the mood light (yay booze!)
    * Had someone else rounding up the various groups during the afternoon
    * At least I had the flash - even if too far away (or set to lower power than needed??)
    * Shooting in interesting light - I think if I had used a 50mm lens and was closer, with the flash @ maybe F5.6 - 8 ish I'd have gotten a nicer blurred background and nice golden light on faces
    * Recognised I did a number of things wrong after the fact (though it obviously would have been better to recognise that beforehand)

    I'll make a point when I get home tonight of posting a couple of other shots that I think actually came out pretty good. I realise the one above is not great, but perhaps I can ask for a bit of critique of a couple of the ones I think are actually good.

    Oh yeah - I'm glad you had another look Sabbath - I wasn't too impressed with your edit either! Thanks all for your input thus far.
  8. Garbz
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    Garbz New Member

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    Nothing wrong with the beer or the lens. Although the lens is better suited for single portraits.

    If you understand the way flashes work with the SB-800 you should be able to fill flash that easily even from 10+ metres away. I had to do it once when I was taking photos of a band with a 105mm lens. In such a situation flick the camera to manual. Aperture controls the overall light like ISO does, and shutter will only control the natural light. Drop the ISO as low as you can, raise the shutter value to your maximum sync value and select the aperture to get the right background light, and then adjust the flash. Even from across the yard like this you can almost make your flash a primary light and the sun the fill light, but at f22 your flash doesn't stand much chance.
  9. GMan_nz
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    GMan_nz New Member

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    what about 8 beers? :p

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