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how can i improve this headshot

L

laurenvictoria

Guest
Something looks off to me

i know the blacks are a little blue, but that was intentional.
 

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  • 765A5368.jpg
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The depth of field looks a little shallow to me and it looks like there's a fair amount of noise. I like it, overall.
 
thank you! yea the noise is weird my iso was 800 and its on a mark iii so i assumed it would hold up. Dof was 5.6 here
 
I would have her sit up a little straighter and not project her head quite so far forward, and also lower your light a bit; the highlights seem to be on her forehead. The overall exposure looks to be about 2/3 - 1 stop low.
 
Too dark and lacking contrast. There's no black in the photo and nothing near white. You also have some blotchy color variations in her skin tone -- her forehead is much oranger than her checks -- need to balance that. Her hair style in this photo doesn't help. A hair style that would bring some hair over her forehead would help. I do very little skin re-touch work and I'm not good at it, but she could also use some skin smoothing, a little less saturation, and a crop.

The ISO is listed as 500 in the EXIF data. It is a bit noisy for 500 ISO which suggests low exposure. I ran a light noise filter over the photo.

Joe

765A5368 copy_filtered.jpg
 
Maybe a touch of back lighting would pop her off the background a bit? I think it's a good shot. Her eyes look great.
 
laurenvictoria said:
Something looks off to me

i know the blacks are a little blue, but that was intentional.

I agree, there is something just a slight bit "off" in this shot. I looked at the shot, downloaded it, cropped it a couple of times, and still was left with that feeling. My feeling is that the image was simply shot from too close a distance. Part of the clue is found in Tirediron's comment that she should, "not project her head quite so far forward". She's not projecting her head all that much--the focal length is simply tool short, and the camera is too close, and that in combination with the lighting pattern, is creating the effect of an enlarged nose and enlarged facial plane, in relation to the size of her neck, and her shoulders. I looked at the EXIF information, and it shows 70mm.

This photo is simply shot from too close a distance. And the horizontal camera orientation? Using the landscape orientation here is the wrong thing to do, because it caused you to get too close to her, AND because it shows her shoulders filling a whopping seven-eights of the frame, Visually, her shoulders take up the vast majority of the ENTIRE width of the frame. Visually, we have a young woman whose headshot shows that her shoulder width is almost as wide as the whole frame. With a light, patterned blouse, the effect of white advancing and dark receding is strong. With her shoulders at a fairly flat angle to the camera, the effect is further enhanced. She almost fills the "wide frame" of a horizontal composition...

The too-close camera position and too-short focal length makes her frontal facial planes appear as if her head is being jutted far forward; the light's under-chin shadow gives her lips a simply gorgeous relief (great shadow under the lower lip!!! I love it), and makes her facial shape look simply lovely. This shot would have looked amazingly different with a longer focal length lens, framed as a portrait, from about 15 feet away. I'm not trying to tear you down, but you've just simply done a couple of fundamental things in a not quite optimal way: the camera is too close, and the lens is too short, to give the kind of compressed, beautified facial look that a high-res image like this needs. This type of shot depends on a long focal length lens and the camera being placed farther back. The white checkered blouse is a tricky one...it's really making her look broad at the sholders.

You wanted to get a sizeable "face" in the frame...with the horizontally held camera, that caused you to get too close for a beauty-type face and body rendering.
 
I made a shot at an edit but it doesn't look 'right' to me.
Color and skin texture look off when the original is lightened up a bit.
Her skin is too smooth, textureless and there is an underlying orangeish color that doesn't seem natural

765A53684444444.jpg
 
I also gave it a try,
Smooth a bit her skin, tried to remove the orange, yellow tone and tried the lens correction tool.
23031639336_6084b94510_z.jpg
 
I agree, there is something just a slight bit "off" in this shot. I looked at the shot, downloaded it, cropped it a couple of times, and still was left with that feeling. My feeling is that the image was simply shot from too close a distance. Part of the clue is found in Tirediron's comment that she should, "not project her head quite so far forward". She's not projecting her head all that much--the focal length is simply tool short, and the camera is too close, and that in combination with the lighting pattern, is creating the effect of an enlarged nose and enlarged facial plane, in relation to the size of her neck, and her shoulders. I looked at the EXIF information, and it shows 70mm.

This photo is simply shot from too close a distance. And the horizontal camera orientation? Using the landscape orientation here is the wrong thing to do, because it caused you to get too close to her, AND because it shows her shoulders filling a whopping seven-eights of the frame, Visually, her shoulders take up the vast majority of the ENTIRE width of the frame. Visually, we have a young woman whose headshot shows that her shoulder width is almost as wide as the whole frame. With a light, patterned blouse, the effect of white advancing and dark receding is strong. With her shoulders at a fairly flat angle to the camera, the effect is further enhanced. She almost fills the "wide frame" of a horizontal composition...***

The too-close camera position and too-short focal length makes her frontal facial planes appear as if her head is being jutted far forward; the light's under-chin shadow gives her lips a simply gorgeous relief (great shadow under the lower lip!!! I love it), and makes her facial shape look simply lovely. This shot would have looked amazingly different with a longer focal length lens, framed as a portrait, from about 15 feet away. I'm not trying to tear you down, but you've just simply done a couple of fundamental things in a not quite optimal way: the camera is too close, and the lens is too short, to give the kind of compressed, beautified facial look that a high-res image like this needs. This type of shot depends on a long focal length lens and the camera being placed farther back. The white checkered blouse is a tricky one...it's really making her look broad at the sholders.

You wanted to get a sizeable "face" in the frame...with the horizontally held camera, that caused you to get too close for a beauty-type face and body rendering.

***emphasis mine

Incredibly informative, as usual, Derrel. While I understand the reasoning behind a portrait orientation vs. landscape, I can't help but think of some of the headshot photographers that are sought after and known for their headshots utilizing the horizontal orientation. (Dylan Patrick & Peter Hurley, for example.) Is it a matter of taste, a matter of "learn the rules before you break them," or are guys like that the exceptions to the rules where the rest of us can't expect their level of success with that particular style because they are anomalies and everyone (consumers) are looking for their headshots in portrait orientation?

When I do headshots, I tend to prefer the closely cropped, intimate, horizontal look over the more traditional, "pulled back" (showing more body) portrait orientation. I feel like there's a different level of connection with the subject with the much closer crop. (I do use my 70-200 on those though to avoid the lens issues associated with shorter lenses though.)

Thanks again for expertise and for taking the time to share it with us! I always learn something from your posts!
 
The best idea is to look at the image offered for discussion. The original poster said that it looks "off". The biggest issue is that the lens focal length is too short, and the camera to subject distance is too short, and the net result of that is that the frontal planes of the face look overly large. There is a classic, proven way to photograph a person to make them look their best, and it starts with a lens length that is adequately long in relation to the normal length of the camera format. Seventy millimeters is simply not long enough to avoid distorting the size of the face in relation to the ears, neck, and body.

As far as horizontal versus vertical orientation, there are people with well defined visual tastes, and there are those who think they're breaking new ground with every act they do. There is a hundreds of years old tradition in the visual arts in terms of how composition looks best. There are people who think that framing a person horizontally with their eyes at the mid-level of the frame is a perfectly fine way to frame up a shot. Others with more training in the visual arts will disagree. The vast majority of headshots always have been, and continue to be, shot in portrait orientation. One can always easily draw attention to themselves by "breaking with convention", like wearing a miniskirt to a wedding, or wearing a dress made of meat to a big premier.

Examples, made by people of varying skill levels: Headshot Photographers Sample - Yahoo Image Search Results
 
Something looks off to me

i know the blacks are a little blue, but that was intentional.
When one begins to become self-educated about art, often the hardest part is learning to examine our own art objectively. When you say "something looks off to me" it would certainly help your own process to be able to identify that "something".

Why would you make the blacks "a little blue" intentionally?

In no particular order, I will list the qualities that are not helping.

horizontal format
short lens (thank you, Derrel)
the light is hot on her forehead, while needing more on the lower part of her face and her neck
odd-shaped catchlight

I do appreciate the light on her hair, though, to provide separation from the background.

Just FYI: in any shot in which the photograph is going to be closely examined, (like here, for instance) why not ask the model to remove her contacts? I don't think that is asking too much.
 
Took a quick look at this in Lightroom...cropped it, dodged a bit under each eye to lighten, then manually burned down the sweater with the burn tool, burned down the forehead about 1.2 EV. Applied a B&W conversion using an Infrared with Film grain look, applied a slight vignette to it.
765A5368_basicCC.JPG

Same exact image file as above, but an Antique photo preset applied to the Infrared With Film Grain file...
765A5368_basicCC-2.JPG


The lighting in this shot reminds me a lot of old Hollywood actress photos, with the dark shadow under the lips showing the lusciousness of the lips, and a strong under-chin shadow really highlighting the face. I personally LOVE this kind of lighting! I really, really love it! The element that is most tricky here is the strongly patterned top she's wearing...it commands a huge degree of attention. She's a bit too square-shouldered to the camera, which emphasizes shoulder width, which with this top on is not really the idealized, feminine look.
 

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