In desperate need of help with fixing portraits!

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by LeaNC, Nov 25, 2015.

  1. LeaNC

    LeaNC TPF Noob!

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    "Embarrassing" is an understatement for how I feel about these images and myself as a photographer... But I desperately need some help, preferably without judgement because I'm ashamed enough as it is! I should absolutely know better considering my experience, I guess my personal issues are reflecting onto my work.
    I wouldn't even be sharing these for help if this wasn't SO important to this family! - This was their parents 50th wedding anniversary, and the father is ill, so this may be the family's last event with him... no pressure right?

    So I stupidly took on the very important job of photographing a friends parents 50th anniversary after not picking up my camera for a few years, thinking it would be like riding a bike (I've been going through a lot of personal/financial hardships, which have caused me to take a good 2 years break from my photography - I also had to drop out of college where I was studying photography for over a year because of said hardships), but I crashed the damn bike and ruined the outdoor portrait portion of my photographs - the photos during the event turned out great, I'm clearly not good with outdoor portraits.
    I've photographed portraits(indoors) and events in the past, and all have turned out great, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to get back into what I love! Unfortunately, once I was photographing the family I had forgotten many vital techniques, even the common sense stuff like checking the histogram as I shoot - thus leaving me with disgustingly under/over exposed, discolored messes. And since the family was on edge that day, and VERY impatient during the portrait session, I rushed everything like an overly confident amateur (no excuses, I should have done a better job of making it fun for them, and taken more time to check my settings.)
    I also used a large homemade reflector, which I used wrong, and made a bad situation worse.
    So needless to say, these photos are my worst to date, and I'm in a panic trying to fix them for an anxious family hoping to use them for the holidays!
    There is absolutely no option to re-shoot this, it was a one time event, and there's just not enough time anyhow.
    I've managed to make some huge improvements in Lightroom and Photoshop, but unfortunately my edits just aren't doing it (and look even worse when exported from Lightroom.)
    I'm not skilled enough in post, and I'm finding myself over editing all of these.
    Meanwhile, I have the client contacting me frequently asking when they will be ready because the family is getting anxious, so panic has fully set in at this point.
    I'm about to give up completely, and return their money - But this means so much to them, and myself.

    Finally getting to the point here, I'm in desperate need of some post production assistance!
    I understand that I can't just have someone in this forum take over my entire post production, but if there's anyone who can help me make these photos bearable you will be a lifesaver!
    What I need most is someone with a better trained set of eyes, and more experience with post production, to work with them and see what you can do. Then send it back with a little explanation of how you got it to that point.
    Or just any advice on how I can improve these asap!
    I have a total of 13 different photos, with extra shots of the larger groups to fix anyone who blinked or moved, giving a total of 45 photos.
    I've included a link to my Dropbox folder with everything needed to help - Including the original CR2 files, as well as the DNG/Tiff to see where I got with my edits. :
    **Removed link - Thank you for the privacy advice!**
    I apologise for writing a book here!
    Thank you very much for your time, and help!
    -Lea

    * I've attached an example of what I'm currently working with (original file, and edit from Lightroom+photoshop thus far) as an example before going to my dropbox.


     

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    Last edited: Nov 25, 2015
  2. LeaNC

    LeaNC TPF Noob!

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    I also want to add that my biggest issue while editing them is fixing the white balance after fixing the underexposure, and giving them more depth without over editing. I've used multiple professional techniques in photoshop after lightroom, but for some reason I can't seem to get it right.

    It's overwhelming to say the least, these are just the portraits, I have roughly 800 total to work through still (of course I plan to cut that back dramatically), and I don't have a lot of time left to finish them.
    I never should have taken on such a job when my skill level has greatly dropped, but I can't go back now.
     
  3. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I apparently don't know how to open a DNG file, but I will say that you should not make your entire project open to everyone like that.

    Set up another file where you put just the one example photo and provide a link that will take us to it.

    Two more things; your edit looks not too bad to me, but perhaps you would like it better.

    When viewing the one image that I can see, it looks like you missed focus.
     
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  4. astroNikon

    astroNikon 'ya all Bananas I tell 'ya Supporting Member

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    Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T2i
    Lens: EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
    Shot at 32 mm
    Exposure: Auto exposure, Program AE, 1/160 sec, f/7.1, ISO 100, Compensation: -1


    Learn about Focusing Modes, Exposure Modes (don't use Auto Exposure and Matrix type metering).

    I think your camera saw the bright light (for example the ladies upper left hair) and set the exposure for that. It prevented it from being blown out but the rest was underexposed.

    The focusing seems okay, but remember light. Might have been best to have the sun in their face (and auto exposure would have been better) than behind right of them. Sun at your back.
     
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  5. dennybeall

    dennybeall No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    On the sample you provided you needed to use masking to keep the increase in brightness from affecting the already bright sky area.
    To get the quick and dirty part for a zillion shots I'd use Levels to bring the whole thing up - then use the mask to bring the sky back down and on his coat to bring the lens flare back down - then add a touch of Vibrance and move on. Like this a 2 minute rough fix:
    _MG_4180-2.jpg
    oops -Missed the mask on her dress, but you get the idea
     
  6. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Pretty good "save" on that one.
     
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  7. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Take a breath, this one looks like it's a matter of correcting for the exposure and your editing might be better than you think.

    Obviously 800 is more than necessary for one shoot, you probably won't use more than what, maybe 5% of what you shot? I'd start narrowing it down - try sorting the ones that are all same/similar poses into groups; for example all the ones of them standing in this location posed together. Then pick from each group maybe 2-3 that look best and start adjusting; once you get something good then move on to the next set/group of poses. At least that's probably how I'd do it but everyone organizes differently.

    It's taking time for the DNGs to open but if you have those you'll probably be able to adjust from that. I might not use the last names if you're going to post them (although this is a common enough name).
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2015
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  8. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I think you'll be OK if you can just narrow it down to the best and to a reasonable number to adjust and give them. (Try not to panic, I've seen worse...)

    If you have another one like #4224 with the girl smiling instead of squinting, I'd go with other choices that are similar poses if possible. I'd watch too for feet/shoes being in the pictures and maybe not use ones like #4200 if you have another similar pose. (edit - Now looking at more, it looks like you have similar group shots - I'd probably go with whatever grouping looks best as far as everyone looking at the camera and how it's framed, and pick one of each grouping.)

    In some I might think about cropping the top more to eliminate so much of that sky showing, and work on adjusting so the subjects look good. There seems to be plenty of space above their heads that I think you can crop that down some.

    The one of the two boys, and the group of the three of them - what's not to love? I'd think they'll probably be happy with those. If you can brighten up and adjust contrast to improve others they'll probably like what you give them.
     
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  9. Ysarex

    Ysarex Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    old_couple.jpg

    I only looked at the one you posted. I have a different take on the white balance. The two of them have unbalanced skin tones and the old guy has rosacea. In your version he's decidedly blue. She's closer to normal (makeup) but leaning blue -- back of her hand is blue. In a portrait skin tone matters above all else. My version is warm compared to yours but I've got healthier overall skin tones. Who cares about the grass or the mulch -- nobody is going to look at that.

    The blown highlights in her hair and on the side of his head are unfortunate, but you did that: own it. There's one thing that looks worse than a blown highlight and that's filling it in with a solid flat color -- it's also an admission of guilt. Happy Thanksgiving.

    Joe
     
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  10. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I notice the mulch is slightly different in hue on each side of the frame! OMG!
     
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  11. LeaNC

    LeaNC TPF Noob!

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    Thank you so much for all the feedback!
    It was a great lesson learned to take my time and pay more attention to how I photograph (Manual! Manual! Manual! Why did I think auto settings would be ok to speed up the process?), as well as building my skills more before agreeing to photograph such an important moment! - I definitely need to work on my understanding of lighting, and metering.
    But I realise now that I was beating myself up and panicking over these more than I should have - I went back into lightroom, fixed the awful colors, and exposure, threw the first bunch onto my Flickr for some feedback from the client, and she was extremely happy!
    I always forget that most clients are not trained to be so critical of an image, and will never see the issues that I would normally obsess over.

    Thank you again for all of the kind and honest feedback! I was honestly expecting to get more critique-like comments tearing me apart because how badly I messed up (the internet is a wonderful place!), but you all have been great!
    I'm glad I joined this community, and plan to stick around!
     
  12. Ysarex

    Ysarex Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    That's the lens flare causing that -- not worth trying to adjust.

    Joe
     

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