Fall family portraits - help with post processing

Discussion in 'People Photography' started by adamhiram, Nov 12, 2018.

  1. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    It’s that time of year again when I try to take our own family photos, only to be faced with a litany of technical challenges, and chasing good light seems like a lost cause. This year was especially challenging with fall foliage disappearing almost as quickly as it came, and heavy storms every weekend in between. This left very limited options for both location and direction to shoot.

    I did my best with what I had to work with, but would definitely appreciate any recommendations on what I could do differently when post processing these images.

    This first shot was taken at 85mm at f/4 with the sun coming from behind and camera right, providing backlighting for the trees and rim lighting for the subjects. The "good light" was about an hour earlier when the sun was more directly behind the subjects, rather than burning out the edge highlights. Off camera flash was used for fill from a 38” octobox above and just out of frame camera left.

    [​IMG]
    20181111-DSC_0323a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    The second photo was taken at 85mm at f/2 and shot wide and cropped in a bit. It was taken in direct midday sun, which was far from ideal, as the area was in full open shade about an hour prior. I did what I could in post to reduce highlights and bring up shadows (decrease highlights and whites, increase shadows and blacks, a bit of dodging and burning with the adjustment brush to even out the scene), but the final image looks a bit overcooked to me. Any recommendations on better ways to process this type of image are appreciated. I included the original image below to show what I had to work with (1 head composited from another shot).

    [​IMG]
    20181110-DSC_0258a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    20181110-DSC_0258-original
    by adamhiram, on Flickr


     
  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    To me this always seems like a doctor performing his own surgery. These are a nice set of family portraits, but I suspect that they would have been much better if all you had to do is worry about sitting there. That said, as far as post goes, the main thing I see is CROP... crop wayyyyyyyy in. the leaves and trees are a background. NOT a sideground and frontground too.
     
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  3. TreeofLifeStairs

    TreeofLifeStairs No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    #1 is the winner of the bunch.

    Like tirediron said though, it can still use some cropping. It’s good to shoot a little wide to give yourself room to crop for different aspect ratios for prints.
     
  4. n614cd

    n614cd TPF Noob!

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    Crop. The contrast of the yellow leaves against the red/brown still on the trees are too far apart to me, and both detract from the family.

    Tim

    Sent from my SM-J737T using Tapatalk
     
  5. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Any of these could be our favorite, with just a few changes. I'm no good at post-capture editing, so no suggestions on that.

    #1 might be the best one because you got your son's face, but that backlight isn't doing what you had hoped for. Too strong compared to the front light, which is pretty good. I say use #1 and just crop it a bit more.

    #2 & #3 have the wrong light, which I think you already know. Aside from being quite flat, the WB in these do not match, and I think the WB in #3 is probably correct.
     
  6. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks for the great feedback! I kind of figured #2 was a non-starter, but a simple crop on #1 definitely improved the composition.

    I recall you telling me the same thing last year! Absolutely agreed, but as long as I can pre-focus and use the built-in intervalometer along with a wireless remote, I can get bursts of 9 shots at a time as long as they are posed. There are definitely limitations though.

    Done. As @TreeofLifeStairs alluded to, I shot wide to leave room for different crops. This will likely be used for a holiday card, which can be anywhere from a square 1x1 to a wide 1x2 ratio. Here's a tighter crop.

    [​IMG]
    20181111-DSC_0323b
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    Yup, and this isn't the first time I've posted looking for help in fixing bad light in post, which never really looks right in the end. I'll scout a location ahead of time and note when the light is good, but by the time we get a kid ready and out of the house, I can never seem to hit that window. Last year I found a great location on a nature trail with amazing light around 10am, but by the time the time we got everyone ready, it was 12:30pm. That's pretty much what happened with shot #2 above. As a side note, this is why I've been spending more time learning studio lighting - nothing changes if the subject is uncooperative and delays us an hour or two!
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
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  7. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Very true! That said, you can often give Mother Nature a helping hand, especially if you have reasonably strong light (~300+ W/S) that can do HSS.
     
  8. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    That's what I was trying for in #1, but unfortunately didn't have quite enough power. I already had my settings maxed out, with ISO set to L 1.0 (simulated ISO 50), shutter speed at 1/250s (max sync speed), and aperture at f/4 (I would have preferred a bit wider). I think I could've saved the highlights if I was able to underexpose by 1-2 stops, but with a speed light already pushed to full power, I hit my limit. Even if I figured out how to jam all 3 of my speed lights into the softbox, that still wouldn't have gotten me to the 300W/S equiv.
     
  9. TreeofLifeStairs

    TreeofLifeStairs No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yeah, there’s no competing with the sun. Work with it when you can but trying to overpower it with more light can be a losing battle.

    I hear you with the kid factor. I’ve got 3 and try to do what you’re doing. There’s no way of predicting how much time we’ll need to get ready. Most of the time it’s anywhere from an hour to 2 hours to get ready. On those rare good days they’ll cooperate and we’ll be out the door in 15 mins and then we’ll be 1/2 hour early to whatever was planned and then we’ll need to keep them clean and picture ready the whole time which is like juggling.

    So either we’re an hour late or a half hour early. Neither works when you’re trying to be somewhere at a particular time.
     
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  10. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    @adamhiram Great family shots!!!! Being your own photographer is no easy task, so I think they all look good, but #1 and #2 are my favorites, because you were looking down in #3. The only negative I have on #1 is the fence in the background, not nearly as attractive as the other two, but cropping tighter in your edit helped minimize some of that. I still might be tempted to burn down the highlight on the side of your face just a tad. All in all I like the pose in #1, but I'm not really opposed to #2 either. There's nothing more beautiful then a child's laugh, and he's having a good one!! So if I had to pick one, for a card, I might just pick it.
     
  11. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Yes, the heavy crop-in rescued the one shot, and is what I would suggest on all of the shots from the original post. Selfies are VERY difficult to do well. A group shot done that way sounds exceptionally difficult to me.
     
  12. n614cd

    n614cd TPF Noob!

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    Like the others, I liked the cropped in shot a lot.

    Tim
     

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